The Northrop Grumman-led KC-30 tanker team is expected to announce the selection of General Electric's CF6-80E1 as its exclusive engine choice for the US Air Force's KC-135 tanker replacement programme, following Boeing's decision to team once again with Pratt & Whitney for its KC-767 bid.

Although GE was originally considered to be a candidate for the KC-767 with the CF6-80C2 engine, or potentially even a variant of its GEnx, Boeing announced on 12 March that it has reached an agreement on the KC-X engine proposal with P&W and its PW4062.

P&W and Boeing had also teamed on an initial KC-767 lease proposal for the USAF in March 2004, but this agreement lapsed with the termination of the controversial plan. The two launch customers for Boeing's KC-767 tanker, Italy and Japan, meanwhile, selected the CF6-80C2 for their eight aircraft.

Although terms of the new Boeing/P&W deal have not been revealed, it is believed the engine maker offered attractive pricing based on the relatively low number of average flight hours expected to be accumulated by the average KC-X versus its nearest commercial equivalent.

Boeing, although not directly commenting on the cost aspects, says the agreement means "Pratt & Whitney becomes eligible to supply its PW4062 engines if Boeing is awarded the USAF KC-X contract later this year."

Boeing says its agreement "followed a best-value competition that focused on engine technical requirements like enhanced thrust and fuel efficiency, as well as logistics support, acquisition and total ownership cost, management and past performance factors."

The Italian air force's first KC-767A successfully transferred fuel to a Boeing B-52 bomber and F-15E fighter during flight tests conducted in the USA on 5-6 March. Italy and Japan will both take delivery of their first KC-767s later this year, Boeing says.

Source: Flight International