I don’t disagree on that, but I also don’t think it’s just ‘ready for others to order’ today (a la STC). It’s going to take a reasonably large customer(s) to drive that. Further, I am not sure what they’ll do with Lockheed on this but my suspicion is if they are putting a new engine type on it, the GEnX makes more sense for USAF than the Trent7000. I think the commonality with the C-5M, and as well the fact that the bypass ratio on the new Trent is so much higher might make the GE a simpler/more attractive option to bid.
The tanker STCs are there, they already have around half dozen for different configurations. What the STC brings is the AFM changes, continued airworthiness changes, production capability for the boom and console. The engine choice is part of the solution, however as they have already demonstrated they are more than happy to have GE or RR powered tankers, and even different engine variants from each are flying in service.
I think Airbus would be happy having both the T7000 and GEnx on the A330, all of the engines on the A330CEO will be banned under new noise regulations on new built aircraft in the not too distant future.
The changed/higher bypass ratio means that in particular I’m guessing they’d have to totally re-do things like certifying refueling for each type (this affects turbulence behind), auto air 2 air refueling, etc.
I don’t foresee this to be a big issue, the amount of thrust in cruise required should be less than today’s A330 based tanker as they have cleaned the airframe up a little. The wingtip devices should also reduce the interference as they are designed to reduce the wingtip vortex to reduce drag.
What if, and this is just for laughs, not serious, in some future date A330’s are only assembled in the US, and yet the KC-45 (or whatever it would be called) is completed in Spain?
I would guess Airbus would send over stuffed fuselage sections and wings to the US and assemble them in the Mobile, Alabama based facility like the A220, A320s, Lakota, CN235. With the low production rate of the A330 I could see them moving all A330 production to the US and using the facilities in TLS for increased A350/A320 series FAL.
I’m not sure what LM would provide, maybe some of the defensive equipment, datalinks, post production support. I think it’s fair to say that Airbus has the best boom and hoses available on any tanker at the moment, and getting better to the point where they have an autopilot like function to do automatic refueling based off computer vision of the receiver in trail with the tanker.
One would think the direction the majority of other NATO members with tankers have gone, Middle East (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Eqypt), Asia Pacific (India, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, Australia) would play a part in this. If the US could tap into this global network through co-operation of similar tankers it would provide global reach with probably fewer overall frames required.