Peter La Franchi/RAAF RICHMOND

Key decisions on the future shape of the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) tanker requirement are expected this week. Australian capability planners are pushing for an all-jet solution, using private finance initiative (PFI) type funding, a lease or an outright capital purchase.

A submission prepared for consideration by the Australian Defence Capability Committee calls for the dropping of potential solutions based on turboprop aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin C-130J, and on jets such as refurbished Lockheed L-1011 TriStars, McDonnell Douglas DC-10s, ex-US Air Force Boeing KC-135s or modified Ilyushin Il-78s.

According to Sqn Ldr Brian Anderson from Capability Development - Air, part of the Australian Defence Headquarters, the submission calls for continued examination of refurbishing the RAAF's four Boeing 707 tankers as well as acquiring new Boeing 757s and 767s or Airbus A310s.

He says that the submission pushes for a jet tanker. "We want it fitted with dual wingtip pods and a centreline refuelling system, notably a centreline boom. We want appropriate range, endurance and off-load capability, to be further defined as the project goes along."

Retention of the 707 upgrade option is based on the RAAF's knowledge of the aircraft. An airworthiness and supportability study is under way to determine upgrade potential and life beyond the planned 2005 phase-out.

Anderson says that extensive work has still to be undertaken by the RAAF on the viability of the PFI option. "We have a costing study that we are about to enter into, which will allow us to model the costs of PFI and leasing arrangements to determine what the real costs of those options would be," he says.

A request for proposals could be issued midway through next year, with government funding approval in May 2001.

Source: Flight International