DTWPurserBoy
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Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Mon Dec 31, 2012 12:35 am

Way back in 1971-73 I flew as a crew member on the RC-135M out of Kadena, Okinawa. I see that those aircraft, now reeingined, are still actively flying and have been redesignated as RC135U's and other types.

Are there any active plans to replace them? I would think the new B767 tanker aircraft would be a logical choice. I have heard that the Joint Stars aircraft will be retired.

It is a testiment to the strength of the 135 that these airplanes have performed yeoman's service for our country and I am proud to have been a small part of it.
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Oroka
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:33 am

I would expect with modern payload advances, a P-8 variant with all its computer power would serve as a replacement airframe. Im pretty sure I read Boeing has already offered the platform for sigint applications.
 
bigjku
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:08 pm

Quoting Oroka (Reply 1):
I would expect with modern payload advances, a P-8 variant with all its computer power would serve as a replacement airframe. Im pretty sure I read Boeing has already offered the platform for sigint applications.

This. It actually would not shock me to see it be the next AEW and JSTARS platform as well. The fuel efficiencies are too good to ignore and if it can do the job you just don't need the widebody size. Also since the 707 is not a widebody anyway you really don't lost that much space going to the biggest 737 variant. You do lose MTOW to a degree but I don't think that is much of an issue with the ELINT birds. It may be an issue on the AEW birds.

Unless there are new capabilities you need to carry aloft that you would need a 767 sized platform for. The 767 is a much bigger airplane than a 707 really. Considering how much smaller and lighter electronics are getting a 737 with some extra gas tanks (ala the P-8) should do the job nicely. I think for RC-135 the 737 variant is almost assured. The AEW thing will still be up in the air.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:55 pm

Quoting BigJKU (Reply 2):
This. It actually would not shock me to see it be the next AEW and JSTARS platform as well. The fuel efficiencies are too good to ignore and if it can do the job you just don't need the widebody size. Also since the 707 is not a widebody anyway you really don't lost that much space going to the biggest 737 variant. You do lose MTOW to a degree but I don't think that is much of an issue with the ELINT birds. It may be an issue on the AEW birds.

Actually, Rivet Joint and related KC-135 derivatives have a narrower fuse than the 737/P-8 platform, essentially being based on the original Dash 80 frame.

I agree, though, that a 737-based AEW/ELINT platform may make the most sense. Commonality with the P-8 being a big factor, you could in theory have a common maintenance facility. When you take into account the extreme miniaturisation of computer hardware and reduction in power requirements, you don't really need that big of a bird to support it anymore. It might even be possible to get the same capability into a G650 or a BBD Global Express.
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Spacepope
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:01 pm

Quoting connies4ever (Reply 3):
Actually, Rivet Joint and related KC-135 derivatives have a narrower fuse than the 737/P-8 platform, essentially being based on the original Dash 80 frame.

Yep, IIRC the 737 should be about 7" wider thn the -135.


I'd just be concerned about the generator capacity to run all the electronics.
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mechatnew
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:40 pm

The RC-135, E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS were to be replaced by the E-10 based on the 767 airframe. This project was cancelled and all 3 will soldier on for a good while.
 
bigjku
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:03 pm

Quoting mechatnew (Reply 5):
The RC-135, E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS were to be replaced by the E-10 based on the 767 airframe. This project was cancelled and all 3 will soldier on for a good while.

True but, I honestly think that since when that program was created in 2003 electronics have advanced so fast on the miniaturization front that the 737 will be a sufficient platform for replacing these things. Frankly they could go either way depending on what was necessary. Both the 767 based tankers and the 737 based P-8's will be in service for many years with their respective services so I don't see a huge benefit maint. wise going one way or the other. I would suspect that 737 makes the most sense for RC-135 (because you could roll up the EP-3 and RC-135 replacements in one frame). Right now the Navy says the EP-3 will be replaced by the BAMS but I suspect if the USAF bought say 24 RC-135 replacements that the USN might buy another 6-10 to operate itself.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:20 pm

Quoting mechatnew (Reply 5):
The RC-135, E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS were to be replaced by the E-10 based on the 767 airframe. This project was cancelled and all 3 will soldier on for a good while.

I suppose the E-6B "Mercury" TACAMO platforms will need replacing sometime in the intermediate future, say 8-10 years. 737/P-8 platform probably also makes sense there as well.

Speaking of the VLF comm infrastructure, what was done with the big ground array in Michigan after the E-6's came on-line ? I assume there were other facilities as well, but am not aware of locations.
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DTWPurserBoy
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Mon Dec 31, 2012 8:58 pm

I remember the gear that we had on that bird and now with satellitel comms and digitalizaton I would love to see what all they have--but we know that's not going to happen.

IMHO the space offered on the 767 airframe would enable it to combine some features of other platforms. However, there is still a lot of "turf" issues and rivalry. That never changes.

Long live Combat Apple! When I looked at the pictures of my RC-135M and the RC-135U and W's I could only recognize the hog nose.
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kc135topboom
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Tue Jan 01, 2013 2:15 pm

Quoting Spacepope (Reply 4):
Quoting connies4ever (Reply 3):Actually, Rivet Joint and related KC-135 derivatives have a narrower fuse than the 737/P-8 platform, essentially being based on the original Dash 80 frame.
Yep, IIRC the 737 should be about 7" wider thn the -135.

No, the B-707/-727/-737, and B-757 fuselarge is only 4" wider than the KC-135 platform airplanes. The KC-135 is 4" wider than the B-367-80 testbed airplane.

Quoting mechatnew (Reply 5):
The RC-135, E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS were to be replaced by the E-10 based on the 767 airframe. This project was cancelled and all 3 will soldier on for a good while.

Correct, but when time does come to replace these platforms, I suspect it will be based on the KC-46 platform, but perhaps using the B-767-300ERF airframe. Japan already fies the E-767J, which is based on the B-767-200ER airframe.
 
rfields5421
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:59 pm

Quoting connies4ever (Reply 7):
I suppose the E-6B "Mercury" TACAMO platforms will need replacing sometime in the intermediate future, say 8-10 years. 737/P-8 platform probably also makes sense there as well.

I remember the project to replace the C-130s with the E-6A aircraft in the late 80s. VQ-3 was based on Guam while I was in VQ-1.

I'm fairly sure the Navy will prefer replacing them with the P-8 and moving the squadron from Tinker to probably Whidbey along with replacing the E-3E Aries with the P-8.
 
Legs
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:12 pm

Quoting Spacepope (Reply 4):

The Wedgetail and its offshoots have significantly uprated generators on board. Check the engine cowls, there is a big bulge to accommodate the bigger generator. Its an oil-cooled unit too, if memory serves, but I can't remember exactly what it is rated at.
 
Devilfish
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:13 pm

Boeing tried to shock the AF with a $10-15B update/upgrade price into replacing those with a brand-new, armed AGS fleet for $5.5B based on the P-8 airframe.....

http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/images/AIR_737_SIGINT_Cutaway_lg.jpg
http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/...ages/AIR_737_SIGINT_Cutaway_lg.jpg

http://boeing.com/defense-space/military/p8ags/index.html


.....it'd be doubly hard to convince them to launch it now that the DoD is teetering on the edge of the fiscal cliff.         
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kc135topboom
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:25 pm

The USAF can still fly the RC-135s for years and decades to come. If they need to replace some airframes, they can always take some KC-135A/Es out of flyable storage and convert them with the equipment currently installed in the RC-135s, including the F-108-100 engines.
 
JoeCanuck
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:23 am

Quoting mechatnew (Reply 5):
The RC-135, E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS were to be replaced by the E-10 based on the 767 airframe. This project was cancelled and all 3 will soldier on for a good while.

The planned engine conversions to Jt8D-200's on the JSTARS is brilliant. The switch gives them up to 17% better fuel burn, engines are a dime a dozen and they fit right onto the current struts. CFM's are going on the KC/RC-135's.

Even the more expensive CFM conversions are basically the cost of 2 or 3 bare 737's...and that's to do all of the planes.

Going to a Wedgtail/737 based airframe would cost orders of magnitude more than continual upgrades to the current platforms.

As has been pointed out, these airframes are decades away from the end of their fatigue life. Even though they're old, their hourly usage per year and total cycles are significantly lower than similar passenger aircraft, which get abused to a far greater degree.

[Edited 2013-01-01 16:24:42]
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kanban
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:17 am

There is coming a time when due to environmental constraints and small lot costs for forgings and castings, plus the diminishing supply of refurbished spares that these planes will have to be grounded even though the frames could go on for years. Unfortunately when the government should have been looking at re-engineing and other upgrades, there was lots of money so they just assumed new buys would replace these units.

Bikerthai, when he returns from vacation, may have more on the various P-8 based designs.. and then again maybe he can't say much.
 
DTWPurserBoy
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:13 pm

The original aircraft that were configured as RC-135M planes were the last 135 airframes off the Boeing line. Originally delivered to MAC, they were made surplus with the delivery of the Lockheed C-140 and were transferred to SAC. They came equipped with fan jet engines instead of the water wagons. They were ships 62-4131, 62-4132, 62-4134, 62-4135, 62-4138 and 62-4139. One of the missing numbers was nicknamed "Lisa Ann" and was tragically lost over Alaska. Extensive modifications had been made to the airframe much to Boeing's displeasure. Some of the others wound up in various VIP roles. I made my first and last flight on ship 135.

If anyone has any information about the loss of "Lisa Ann" I would sure love to hear it.
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Devilfish
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Thu Jan 03, 2013 1:59 am

The RAF saw it fit to stick with the old.....

http://www.aviationweek.com/Blogs.as...132b93-a775-4e88-bcd8-8a8067cafc0a

Quote:
"An image leaked on the internet shows what appears to be the first RC-135 Rivet Joint destined for the U.K. Royal Air Force.

The RAF has three RC-135s on order, making the U.K. the first export customer for the RC-135V/W Sigint jets. The aircraft have been converted from a trio of 1964-vintage Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers.

The three aircraft were ordered by the Ministry of Defence in March 2010 and the first aircraft is expected to roll out early next year."
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prebennorholm
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Thu Jan 03, 2013 4:27 am

Quoting DTWPurserBoy (Thread starter):
Way back in 1971-73 I flew as a crew member on the RC-135M out of Kadena, Okinawa. I see that those aircraft, now reeingined, are still actively flying and have been redesignated as RC135U's and other types.

Are there any active plans to replace them?

When looking at the military roles, which have been fulfilled by various RC-135s over the last 5 decades, then it is unlikely that they will be replaced by a single aircraft type.

Several traditional RC-135 roles are likely already fulfilled by the MQ-9 Reaper. Other roles are satellite based. It hardly means that all RC-135s will ultimately be replaced by unmanned air and space vehicles. Some "payload" will still be heavy and bulky and call for large aircrafts, while other types of payload have taken advantage of new miniature technology and can be flown on much smaller aircrafts. And some payloads will also in the future require onboard operators.

When the RC-135s were made it was practically the only aircraft with the performance needed - payload capacity, range, speed, altitude etc. They were a great replacement of the RB-47s since they could haul along an almost unlimited number of system operators. Today the payloads fulfilling the same purposes take all shapes and sizes, and the need for on board operators is varying.

We may see future versions of KC-46, P-8 and C-37 and maybe more types ultimately replacing the RC-135. But it may take a very long time to get rid of the last RC-135. And it will be a gradual process which has already started long time ago.

SIGINT technology has taken many shapes during the last 70 years. First spies dropped by parachute with equipment in a rucksack, then RB-47s with their tape recorders, then RC-135s with heavy high-tech equipment and bunches of operators. And now Reapers and satellites, and still RC-135s, basically functioning as "transports" having had their payloads changed or upgraded God knows how many times during the last 50 years.
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rwessel
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:49 am

Quoting connies4ever (Reply 3):
When you take into account the extreme miniaturisation of computer hardware and reduction in power requirements, you don't really need that big of a bird to support it anymore. It might even be possible to get the same capability into a G650 or a BBD Global Express.

Unfortunately a G650 isn't all that much cheaper than a 737.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:55 am

Quoting rwessel (Reply 19):
Unfortunately a G650 isn't all that much cheaper than a 737.

Not sure what the systems cost would be, but I think a G650 is listing for about $60M. 737/P-8 probably closer to $80-85M. Take that differential over say 50-60 airframes, it adds up.
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kc135topboom
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Thu Jan 03, 2013 1:50 pm

Quoting DTWPurserBoy (Reply 16):
If anyone has any information about the loss of "Lisa Ann" I would sure love to hear it.

A tail of two airplanes, Rivet Ball and Rivet Amber (Lisa Ann).

http://community-2.webtv.net/KingdonAviation/RivetBallAmberShemya/
 
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bikerthai
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Thu Jan 03, 2013 2:42 pm

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 9):
I suspect it will be based on the KC-46 platform, but perhaps using the B-767-300ERF airframe. Japan already fies the E-767J, w

The original E-10 development was based on the 767-400. Even then, it was iffy on if the frame can do what the Air Force wanted. There was an option to look at the 777 frame.

But with all the budget issue, I doubt that there would be enough money to develop any new platform.

Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 10):

I'm fairly sure the Navy will prefer replacing them with the P-8

The Navy have already approved a program to use the P-8 for ground search/battle managment.

http://www.aviationweek.com/Article....e-xml/AW_06_18_2012_p39-466297.xml

As mentioned above, Boeing pitched the same concept to the Air Force. For the Air Force, re-engine would probably cost less but getting the P-8 equivalent would provide more capabilities, better future up-gradability and all the benefit of a 737 platform for a slightly higher cost. How much higher? It depends on who you ask.

Personally I think it all comes down to who has a better working relationship with the Air Force, NG or Boeing. Right now it seems that NG has the Air Force's ears.

Quoting JoeCanuck (Reply 14):
Going to a Wedgtail/737 based airframe would cost orders of magnitude more than continual upgrades to the current platforms.

Using the Wedgetail mod process would indeed cost more than you would like. However if the Air Force is willing to put in some up-front money to have Boeing integrate the fabrication process into the current commercial line, then the over-all cost would probably go down, depending on how many frames they are buying. The design is already done. Boeing just have to take their mod drawings and models and convert them to production drawings/CAD system.

If the Air Force is willing to do that, then there would probably be several international customer who would buy as the current price of the Wedgetail may be giving them second thoughts.

But back to the RC-135 - P-8 comparison.

The one benefit that the P-8 variant has over the current platform is the ability to attack targets. Even if they dis-abled the bomb bay (to increase payload or use it for additional sensor). The P-8 carry weapons on the wind pylons.

This is what Boeing is emphasizing in their pitch . . . the total "Kill Chain" in one package.

Here is their promo video:

http://www.military.com/video/aircra...run-nowhere-to-hide/1187492301001/

bt

[Edited 2013-01-03 07:11:13]
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connies4ever
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:36 pm

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 21):
A tail of two airplanes, Rivet Ball and Rivet Amber (Lisa Ann).

http://community-2.webtv.net/KingdonAviation/RivetBallAmberShemya/

Fascinating information there, Boom, thanks for posting this. Airborne recce was always a dangerous game. I remember reading "Little Toy Dog" many years ago (RB-47E shootdown over the Barents Sea). Many will argue that the a/c was inside the line, or it was outside the line. I don't know if it will ever be clear. What is true is that a lot of USAF/USN personnel gave their lives in this endeavour.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
 
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Revelation
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:27 pm

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 21):
A tail of two airplanes, Rivet Ball and Rivet Amber (Lisa Ann).

Fascinating site!

Quoting bikerthai (Reply 22):
But with all the budget issue, I doubt that there would be enough money to develop any new platform.

At the time, I recall the E-10 was expected to implement pretty much every *INT function any of the services had, as well as acting as a big signal hub/router in the sky. Good idea in theory, but certainly not in reality, no wonder the costs exploded!
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HaveBlue
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RE: Plan To Replace The RC-135 Aircraft?

Wed Jan 09, 2013 5:33 pm

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 21):
A tail of two airplanes, Rivet Ball and Rivet Amber (Lisa Ann).

http://community-2.webtv.net/KingdonAviation/RivetBallAmberShemya/

Excellent reading there! I've bookmarked it and am working my way thru the stories (and links). Great stuff.
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