|Quoting RedFlyer (Reply 214):
Quoting EPA001 (Reply 210):
The interim period is the period where they now are maybe planning a serious bid instead of selling outdated technology to the USAF.
Hi EPA001! I have a question about this comment. Was there something specific about the KC-767's technology base that rendered it inferior with regards to the RFP? I realize the plane does not have a FBW system, but I don't think that was given any consideration in the RFP. From everything that I could see, the KC-30's "superiority" emanated from its larger size only, but I could be wrong.
Hi RedFlyer. As you know developments in the aviation world are going faster and faster every year. Design of new plains is mainly done by computer technology, like the latest CFD for optimising aerodynamics on new designed parts or complete plains (A380, B787 & A350).
I think that the B757-B767 and A310 planes were maybe the first planes where computers started to play a bigger role in the design process then ever before. The next wave of newly designed planes took that technology to a much higher level. To that next wave I think the A330-A340 and the B777 belong. Also the upgrades for the B747-400 were done in such a way.
There lies the difference between the B767 and the A330. It is best shown not only in FBW, but also in construction methods and materials used, but foremost in the superior aerodynamic qualities of the wings and the way the wings are mounted onto the airframe. Also the more modern design reduces maintenance efforts. But the whole package makes the A330 based KC
-45 in many ways more advanced and more attractive. Also the A330 is still selling amazingly good, even when pitched against the B787 and A350, though the last might be a bit too large to compete with the A330. Almost every year upgraded designs flow into the basic airframe to keep the plane attractive for its customers. The USAF
would only be one (though a very large one) of the customers of the airframe, but the costs of these improvements would be spread out over many airliners and individual airframes.
Since the B767 is not selling commercially anymore, the one or two exceptions I disregard here, such major improvement programmes are not running for that airframe anymore. And the older design has less room for improvements. That does not make it impossible to design and implement such improvements, but the costs would be much higher and could only be paid for by the USAF
, i.e. the US tax payer. See the much higher price of the Hybrid B767-AT (Frankentanker?) where Boeing does make improvements to the basic airframe compared to the much more standardized A330-MRTT based KC
Add all that up you get this: Even when larger and heavier then the B767-AT, the KC
-45 will fly more economical then its competitor the longer the mission goes. On short stretches the weight penalty will kill this advantage though. The Boeing wing design falls terribly short here compared to the Airbus wing design. If we would be talking a B777 wing, designed in the same era as the Airbus counterparts, we are talking marginal differences only where the B777 wing could very well even be better. I am not the aerodynamic expert to make such judgements, but the difference between the B767 wing and the A330-A340 wings is clear. And it is the Boeing wing which loses here on every bolt, flap or on the total design of the wing. The more modern offering is clearly the better one here.
The missions the new multi-role tankers will perform will include many cargo transports since the C17 is not doing so well in that department (reliability & foremost costs!). And we know the USAF
specifically opted for a multi-role plane, so the plane should more capable then performing the tanker role only. Both the B767-AT and the KC
-45 would do that cargo transport part better and a lot cheaper then anything else in the inventory of the USAF
I think that the problems Boeing had with the Japanese B767-T, and still has with the Italian B767-T, especially the problems with the modifications for the plane to perform a tanker role, show that the B767 design earlier reaches its limitations. It also "kills" Boeings statement that they have so much expertise compared to its competitor in this department, that not selecting them would pose a risk. Clearly the years of delay in both these tanker programmes prove Boeings PR wrong here.
Contrary to that fact is the flawlessly performed flight testing and certification programme of the KC
-30. No major problems are reported here (so far!), although there is always a possibility that such issues could arise later! But at least this plane won 5 out 5 international contests for the next generation of tanker planes. All those countries who selected did not always look at size only, and for sure not at the percentage of US built components in it, but also at all the other points which I have described above. In the US case I think however it is justified to take the US made percentage into the equasions, but it should not be the decisive factor only. It is a multi billion Dollar project of course, but the qualities of the airplane to perform the missions it is designed for, should come first.
And if you are calling it the next generation tanker, as both NG
-EADS & Boeing are doing, then make sure that it is a modern plane which will not be outdated the moment it enters service (B767-AT), but make sure it is a plane that still will be sold at least for another 10-15 years or so (A330 family) which will continue to receive upgrades and will continue to be called or classified as a modern airplane by everyone, even when she is surpassed by the likes of the B777-NG and the B787 family on Boeings side or the A380 and A350 family on Airbus's side.
Remember if she should be in active duty for at least 40 years, and the latest tankers are delivered in 2020 or so, the plane should still fly in 2060! For sure it is outdated then, but you better try to keep the size of the timeframe where the plane is classified as outdated as small as you can. In the end, that will be the cheaper and more rewarding choice!
Why not take the B787 or A350 based designs: the USAF
opts for proven technology airframes to minimise the risks. The B767-AT is not a proven hybrid airframe which imho is a higher risk then the A330-MRTT based KC
-45. The Japanese and Italian problems (with older, less modified versions of the B767) proof this. But maybe a B777 designed tanker is possible, depending on how long Boeing will get to submit a new bid. It will trail the A330-MRTT based KC
-45 in the risks and costs and availability department for sure, but it could outperform it in the end.
[Edited 2008-09-20 04:45:10]
[Edited 2008-09-20 04:47:22]