The US Air Force has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a further upgrade of its entire fleet of Boeing KC-135 tanker aircraft with a new global air traffic management (GATM) capability. The RFP comes as it nears a final decision on a similar modernisation of the avionics in its Lockheed C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft.

According to the USAF's Aeronautical System Office, the service is looking primarily for an off-the-shelf commercial solution to its future need for communication, navigation and surveillance/ air traffic management (CNS/ ATM) compatibility.

The air force plans to acquire and install 544 systems on its inventory of KC-135 tankers and its derivative EC/RC-135 special mission aircraft.

The KC-135 GATM upgrade will encompass an Inmarsat satellite communications link, a VHF datalink and the addition of a second global positioning/inertial navigation system (GPS/INS) to replace the aircraft's outdated Carousel 4 INS.

The improvements will also provide for envisaged future GATM 2 software growth. Proposals are due by early April, with an award by the end of June.

GATM is intended as a follow-on to the Pacer CRAG cockpit and avionics modernisation of the KC-135, which Rockwell Collins has so far installed in just over 40 aircraft. Work primarily involves fitting five electronic flight information displays, a weather radar and a GPS-equipped flight management system. Other improvements entail fitting traffic collision avoidance (TCAS), ground proximity warning systems (GPWS), emergency locator and flight and voice data recorders.

The final line-up of bidders for the GATM programme has still to emerge, but will probably mirror the teaming arrangements for the C-5 Avionics Modernisation Programme (AMP) with the probable addition of Boeing.

The final C-5 selection, now expected to be made in February, will be between Rockwell Collins and Raytheon or Honeywell tied with Lockheed Martin.

The AMP is the equivalent of a combined GATM/Pacer CRAG upgrade for the USAF's fleet of 126 C-5s, including new glass cockpit displays, TCAS, GPWS and GPS. The USAF is planning to extend a CNS/ATM capability to all of its transport and tanker aircraft, with the McDonnell Douglas KC-10s likely to be next in line.

Some GATM capability has already been fitted to the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III and will form part of the planned Lockheed Martin C-130X AMP upgrade.

Source: Flight International