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Mon, Apr 14, 2008

USAF Determined KC-767 More Survivable, Boeing Says

Retired General Says That's A Major Issue

On Friday, Boeing once again said the US Air Force's decision to award a contract for the next aerial refueling airplane to the team of Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) is at odds with the service's own standards. In the issue of combat survivability, Boeing notes the Northrop/EADS team's KC-30 was determined to be more vulnerable to attack than the Boeing KC-767.

According to the planemaker, the Air Force evaluation found the KC-767 had almost five times as many survivability discriminators as its competitor.

Speaking this week at the Aerial Refueling Systems Advisory Group (ARSAG) Conference in Orlando, FL, former US Air Force Chief of Staff and retired Gen. Ronald Fogleman stressed that survivability greatly enhances the operational utility of a tanker.

"When I saw the Air Force's assessment of both candidate aircraft in the survivability area, I was struck by the fact that they clearly saw the KC-767 as a more survivable tanker," Fogleman told the ARSAG audience in his role as a consultant to Boeing's tanker effort. "To be survivable, tanker aircraft must contain systems to identify and defeat threats, provide improved situational awareness to the aircrew to avoid threat areas, and protect the crew in the event of attack. The KC-767 has a superior survivability rating and will have greater operational utility to the joint commander and provide better protection to aircrews that must face real-world threats."

As ANN reported, on February 29 the Air Force selected Northrop/EADS' Airbus A330 derivative over Boeing's 767 derivative. Boeing subsequently asked the Government Accountability Office to review the decision, citing numerous irregularities and a flawed process that included deviations from the evaluation and award criteria established by the service for the competition.

During the Air Force debrief, the Boeing team discovered the KC-767 outranked the KC-30 in the critical survivability category. According to Boeing, the KC-767 achieved a total score of 24 positive discriminators -- including 11 described as major -- while the KC-30 scored five, none of which were major.

Major survivability discriminators cited by Boeing for the KC-767 included:

  • More robust surface-to-air missile defense systems
  • Cockpit displays that improve situational awareness to enable flight crews to better see and assess the threat environment
  • Better Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) hardening -- the KC-767 is better able to operate in an EMP environment compared with the KC-30
  • Automatic route planning/rerouting and steering cues to the flight crew to avoid threats once they are detected
  • Better armor-protection features for the flight crew and critical aircraft systems
  • Better fuel-tank-explosion protection features.

Boeing says its KC-767 will be equipped with the latest and most reliable integrated defensive equipment to protect the aircraft and crew by avoiding, defeating or surviving threats, resulting in unprecedented tanker survivability -- far superior to all current Air Force tankers, as well as the Northrop/EADS KC-30.



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