KC-X fuel offload breakdown

Gen Arthur Lichte, chief of Air Mobility Command, probably put it best. When I asked Lichte two weeks ago if the US Air Force would change its “more is better” philosophy on fuel offload for the KC-X contract winner, Lichte replied: “Certainly, when you are talking about replacing a tanker, fuel is important.”

The draft request for proposals establishes requirements for minimum fuel offloads at five mission radius ranges: 500nm, 1,000nm, 1,500nm, 2,000nm and 2,500nm. Exceeding the minimum thresholds is not mandatory. But the USAF has establishing a scheme to award between 4-10 bonus points, depending on how much extra fuel is offloaded.

It is possible to compare the three aircraft based on fuel offload estimates provided in Boeing’s latest public KC-X presentation. If Northrop Grumman/EADS North America disputes any of Boeing’s data about the KC-30, I’m sure we’ll hear about it. But here’s how the three potential competitors — KC-767, KC-30 and KC-777 — compare against each other on fuel offload performance at a 1,000nm mission radius.

Minimum threshold: 94,000lb

                                         KC-767 offload: 97,000lb

4 Bonus points: 106,000lb

6 Bonus points: 120,500lb

8 Bonus points: 130,000lb 143,500lb

10 Bonus points: 147,000lb

                                        KC-30 offload: 153,000lb

                                        KC-777 offload: 199,000lb

If Boeing’s data is accurate about the KC-30, the Northrop proposal would enjoy a 10pt advantage over the KC-767 if the USAF awards credit for non-mandatory fuel offload performance, and faces no penalty against KC-777 despite a roughly 30% disadvantage for offload capacity.

[UPDATE: I need to make a correction. KC-767 offload listed above is based on takeoff from a 7,000ft runway, while the KC-30 and KC-777 statistics are based on 10,000ft runway. I'll post a corrected figure for KC-767 based on offload at 1,000nm radius after takeoff from a 7,000ft runway as soon as possible.]

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10 Responses to KC-X fuel offload breakdown

  1. SMSgt Mac 30 September, 2009 at 4:01 am #

    I can hardly wait for the update, and will reserve serious review and comment until it is made, but I have to make note of this one little point….

    Once again I stand in absolute AWE of the Boeing Spin Machine(tm). I can only imagine the legions of commando marketeers they must have had laying in the tall grass,talking points clenched between their teeth in anticipation of the balloon going up.LOL!

    Of course, running “no penalty [for the KC-30] against KC-777 despite a roughly 30% disadvantage for offload capacity” through my handy dandy Federation De-Bias device (developed during the earlier Borg Wars) translates the above into English as: “the KC-777 would receive no extra credit for EXCESS capability beyond that the AF is willing to give credit for, at an unquantified cost in dollars or other impact to performance parameters” .

    …..Its gonna be great!

  2. Stephen Trimble 30 September, 2009 at 11:29 am #

    Sorry guys. We’re having some weird server issues and I’m afraid a few comments were deleted. I do appreciate the commenter for pointing out the big discrepancy on 130,000lb vs 143,500lb. That was a typo, and has been corrected.

  3. Tim D-T 30 September, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    I thought I read somewhere that the “bonus points” for going beyond the mandatory requirements are only counted if the main bids are within 1% of each other.

    What do we think the odds are of the bids coming in within 1%?

  4. Steve 30 September, 2009 at 2:49 pm #


    Page 9 of your linked Boeing KC-X presentation lists Fuel Offload From 7,000’ Runway at 1,000 NM. The values are as follows:

    KC135 – 79K
    KC 30 – 115K
    KC777 – 141K

  5. Stephen Trimble 30 September, 2009 at 3:01 pm #

    Hi Steve,

    I, too, saw the stats on Page 9, but they don’t help us here. The minimum thresholds are based on a 10,000ft takeoff roll, so we still need Boeing’s KC-767 offload data with 7,000 takeoff. I hope that makes sense.

  6. Stephen Trimble 30 September, 2009 at 3:03 pm #

    Hi Tim,

    Remember that you’re talking about a $300 million to $500 million margin on a $35 billion contract. Both contractors know they are in a race to the bottom, in terms of price. So I think it’s actually very possible. Remember that in the last competition the original overall difference between the two proposals was only $41 million. (Of course, that was corrected later, but it was still within a fairly tight margin.)

  7. Royce 30 September, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    It is true that pricing was close in the last competition, but I don’t think Boeing is going to make the same mistake this time. If a smaller aircraft like the KC-767 can fill the mandatory requirements, they are going to build the lowest-cost version they can. We’re then going to see price adjustments for IFARA, fuel burn, and milcon. I don’t see how all of those adjustments even out on two different size aircraft within 1% unless some kind of fiddling is going on.

  8. 787Fan 30 September, 2009 at 9:51 pm #

    I don’t see any way that Boeing can put up a KC-777 anywhere close to the lower price/cost of the KC-30. I think the price of the KC-777 and the small size of the KC-767 will doom Boeing..but I would still love to see a KC-777…..

  9. The Pagan 28 October, 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    I would be willing to bet the locations with the 7000 foot runways will be UNABLE to SUSTAIN high ops tempo air refueling operations because they will drain the airfield’s fuel farm. I dealt with this very subject prior to/during Iraqi Freedom as we ran three large airfields out of gas… in the Middle East! We had 284 8500 gallon fuel trucks waiting at the gates of one base to fill it up. The line was 4 km long and was there for two days.
    The Gulf War Airpower Survey told us Bahrain, Qatar, and UAE were oil IMPORTERS during Desert Storm. So we knew OIF would strain fuel capacity in Gulf Coast countries. Has anyone considered this in their calculations?
    I don’t care if the runway is 15k long… if I do not have the capability to store/bunker 15 million pounds/1.87 million gallons of fuel, it may not be considered a basing location. We used 12+ million pounds in a single day in UAE (20 KC-10s flying 38 missions a day with 320K fuel loads) which was beyond their ability to resupply the base… UAE could not produce those kinds of numbers. A super tank docked at Doha kept the place open and we drained the super tanker during the 21 day initial air war of OIF.

    Seems some folks have not taken this into account for their “footprint” calculations.

  10. Alpharetta Auto Repair 23 July, 2010 at 7:16 am #

    Wonderful to read!

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