No Son of Franken-tanker
Boeing opts for lower-risk approach for new KC-X program
—Michael C. Sirak
September 14, 2009—Boeing is waiting on the Pentagon to issue the requirements for the forthcoming KC-X tanker competition, so the company still doesn't know yet whether it will offer an aerial refueler based on its 767 or its larger 777 commercial aircraft.
But what is already clear is that the company is committed to taking a lower risk approach this time around, Rick LeMaster, Boeing's KC-X program manager, told reporters today at AFA’s Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C.
This means there will be no so-called "Franken-tanker" like Boeing offered in the last KC-X go-around, when it proposed a variant of the of the 767 with new wings and other new major components added to the baseline 767 design.
Lemaster said this is "not the strategy" that the company will pursue. He cited specifically that there will be no new wing type on its tanker offering. And the company is mulling issues like whether to stick with the fifth generation refueling boom already demonstrated on its export tankers as opposed to going with the yet-to-be matured sixth-generation variant that it proposed the last time.
What will be new on its forthcoming tanker offering—be it 767- or 777-based—is a state-of-the-art cockpit with modern avionics, said Lemaster.
Production-wise, the company is mulling whether it makes most sense to perform in-line modifications of the aircraft—as it proposed the last time—or to take a "green aircraft" off of the existing production line and then modify them to the military standard, he said.
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