It's still an open question to me if a tanker bigger than KC-46 is needed.
KC-10 arose out of the difficulty of getting permission to refuel C-5As flying from CONUS to Israel during the 1972 War.
Do we really still need to execute such missions regardless of cost?
How far do KC-46's and C-5M's improved capabilities go to allowing such missions to be performed?
Isn't the early retirement of KC-10 while FedEx still operates MD-10 a sign that if we really need something like KC-10 they would stay?
If the goal is reducing the number of fleets to maintain, isn't it natural to just buy more KC-46s?
Would the pain of adding a small number of KC-10 class larger tankers be worth the pain of maintaining an additional fleet?
It wasn’t a “permission” problem during Nickel Grass, it was Spain’s refusal to allow Spanish-based US tankers to participate in the airlift. Refueling was conducted in the straits, international airspace, after departing a mid-Atlantic air base. The Ms can do Lajes-ME with a load unrefueled. I’ve refueled in the straits in a fighter watching a C-5 get refueled above us, opposite direction. The C-141 was stretched and refueling added after NG.
Right, the lack of permission came from Spain, if you want to call that a refusal that's fine.
Regardless, do you think the current USAF needs to replace KC-10 with a large wide body tanker, or do you think the USAF has changed since then both in terms of equipment and in terms of mission requirements such that KC-10s could be replaced with KC-46s? The advantages from a fleet commonality point of view are pretty clear. The real question in my mind is if there is a capability gap where something bigger than KC-46 is needed. I suppose you could come up with scenarios where bigger is better yet it comes with quite a cost.
Perhaps we get the answer from the thread starter's article:
The service plans to buy 140 to 160 KC-Ys to continue the replacement of its aging KC-135 fleet, which will be 70 years old when the bridge tanker is fielded, the solicitation stated.
Given this is the case, IMO it's going to be hard for LM to talk USAF into bringing a new fleet into operation. LM would have to pitch a turnkey type operation, and it's hard to see how they could make that work financially. I'm sure they have smart people working on the concept, and some of them are almost certainly lobbyists (say it ain't so!).