Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The KC-X Files: The Truth on Fuel Cost is Out There

In anticipation of the new X-Files movie to be released this Friday, Tanker War Blog is launching a new series of posts we call The KC-X Files: The Truth is Out There.

Each post in this series will have a topic on which we will ask both sides of the Air Force tanker contract debate to submit information.

We will then release the information in a side-by-side fashion, much like our previous post on Dueling GAO Talking Points.

To start the series we have chosen the very important issue of fuel efficiency/economy/costs of the KC-30 and KC-767 tankers.

We ask that readers, both pro-EADS and pro-Boeing, please submit comments with any links on this issue, or e-mail us your views along with any PDF documents on tanker fuel usage that you might have. We hope to release the results of this inaugural KC-X File on Friday. [Update 7/25/2008: To date we have not received enought input about KC-30 fuel costs. The release of our finding will be delayed because of this.]

Remember, The Truth is Out There and We Want to Believe that DoD procurement will finally purchase the right sized aircraft for the mission.

Anyway, we'll see you at the movie.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hopefully- there is some non classified tanking scenarios available that consider
a) risk of one tanker being unable to transfer fuel at the necessary time and place
b)the number of aircraft to be refuled by one tanker on one mission
c) the extra fuel margins typically considered both for tanker and tanked aircraft
d) the backup plan for tanker and tankee

e) the percentage of time a tanker offloads over XX% of its capacity

f) the various range versus on station times and requirements

g) the ' fighter ' protection necessary

h) etc etc

Without some sort of fixed- gamed scenario, almost any discussion devolves into the traditional p***ing contest.

Sort of like having a 600 HP engine in your car which can reach 150 mph- but you can or will never be in a place to go over 80 mph safely.

Anonymous said...

What Boeing seems to want the world to believe is that you fly tankers like you fly T-38s...just around the flag pole. In that case, yea, the KC-767 will be cheaper to operate.

But that's not why our Air Force needs tankers.

Commanders need tankers to be on-station to re-fuel aircraft. The aircraft that gets that mission done with fewer aircraft is the better fuel efficient aircraft.

Consider, according to the 9 AF news release, the average off-load of fuel to support operations in Iraq is around 2.6 to 2.8 million pounds of gas per day. It would take 24 KC-767s to meet that demand, but only 18 KC-45s. The KC-767 will require more than 60,000 more gallons of gas to get the same mission done. The KC-767 is going to spend more time and gas droning to and from the orbit point.

60,000 gallons is roughly $250,000 more each day. More than $90 million more each year.

At some point, I'd like to think that adds up to real money. What does the taxpayer get for that? Nothing. Tiahart will have taken the nation to the cleaners if he gets his way.

wakeupamerican said...

I think you are right the Air Force wants bigger tanker but they don't need a bigger tanker. They asking to replace KC135 than KC767 is the right choice for them. If they asking for KC10 than A330 or KC777 is the right choice.

Anonymous said...

About the comment "Consider, according to the 9 AF news release, the average off-load of fuel to support operations in Iraq is around 2.6 to 2.8 million pounds of gas per day. It would take 24 KC-767s to meet that demand, but only 18 KC-45s. The KC-767 will require more than 60,000 more gallons of gas to get the same mission done. The KC-767 is going to spend more time and gas droning to and from the orbit point."

You seem to be forgetting a LOT of assumptions needed to support your analysis

How many trips from how far were/are actually being done by the KC135 and KC-11 tankers NOW.

Do you assume each plane unloads ALL of its tanker fuel [- not gas by the way - more like JP--] and only makes ONE trip ?

IOW are that many KC135s and Kc-11 now in theater ops as you claim ?

And how does the Airbus get there faster when its max speed is less than that of the 767 variant - ditto for cruise ?

Your assumptions MAY be correct- but you have failed to support with published data or supply any rationale as how you reached your numbers analysis. Can you do so ?

Anonymous said...

Lost in the debate about which tanker carries more fuel is the fact that most KC-135s return with FUEL ONBOARD! There is a cost for lugging all that fuel around. If there are missions that require a big-@$$ tanker, then there are KC-10s that can do the job; at last count, we had 59 still flying. Given the price of JP-8, planners will be forced to consider actual mission requirements (plus a reserve for safety) in the vast majority of missions. Synthetic fuels will drive up the costs even further.

Also, there is that small consideration called "boom saturation" to contend with. Just because there is a huge aircraft with lots of fuel does NOT mean that it can transfer it to many aircraft in all missions. During a ferry mission, tactical aircraft must constantly tank, in which requires numbers of booms in the air are a primary consideration as well as capacity.

As for a high fuel transfer rate, that's great on the parking apron when connected to a hydrant system, but most receiver aircraft are limited in the rate at which they can accept fuel. Either the KC-767 or the KC-30 can perform equally here.

The KC-767 has the added advantage that it can fuel the entire inventory--including the V-22!

Anonymous said...

and if northrop and eads gets there way, they will take what is left of our industial base and put it in the crapper

Anonymous said...

Anonymous July 23, 2008 4:43 PM,

You obviously know absolutely nothing about tanker opertations.

Ignorant people like you just look at the numbers without having the slightest idea what they actually mean &/or how they relate to each other & to actual operations.

The currect fleet of KC-135s doesn't "fly just around the flag pole". There is a VERY GOOD reason why the KC-135R is the benchmark (fuel vs range THRESHOLD) for the KC-X. We don't even use the full capacity of the KC-135R most of the time. The demand for fuel & the limit as to how that demand can be met is more often than not a function of the number of booms MUCH more so than how much fuel each individual tanker can offload.

In the real world the demand is to refuel 'x' aircraft with 'y' lbs of fuel per hour/day/week/month (where as 'y' is a function of 'x'). So 'x' requires 'z' booms in the air to supply 'y' lbs of fuel per hour/day/week/month. The limiting factor is the amount of time it takes to refuel each aircraft which is itself limited by the rate at which the receiving aircraft can receive fuel.

The REAL comparision is how well/efficiently does a fleet of KC-767AT fulfill the demand vs the KC-30. And quite simply with the KC-767AT you will have more tankers operating from airfields closer to (& fewer farther away from) their refueling orbits than with the KC-30. So not only will each individual KC-767AT burn less fuel her hour than each individual KC-30 (even when each is carrying the same load) but a fleet of KC-767AT will spend LESS time flying to & from the refueling orbits than a fleet of KC-30.

Anonymous said...

"What Boeing seems to want the world to believe is that you fly tankers like you fly T-38s...just around the flag pole. In that case, yea, the KC-767 will be cheaper to operate."

You sir obviously have no idea what Boeing thinks, so please don't speak for them. I prefer to look at the 50+ years of KC135 data that backs up Boeing claim that bigger is NOT better.

"Consider, according to the 9 AF news release, the average off-load of fuel to support operations in Iraq is around 2.6 to 2.8 million pounds of gas per day. It would take 24 KC-767s to meet that demand, but only 18 KC-45s."

So what, is the Air Force just going to park the 6 other KC30's, and lets call them that since there is no more contract? I think not! The Air Force is going to buy 179 planes and FLY 179 planes. Your argument just flew out the preverbal window.

Since were on 'how many planes' to support an operation; consider this. KC767 tankers can be stations FAR closer to the fight than can KC30 tankers effectively eliminating the PERCEIVED advantage of BIGGER IS BETTER. Spend the necessary MILCON dollars to station KC30 tankers everywhere KC767 tankers can be, so precieved cost advantage is REALLY blown out of the water!!

Ask ANY Tanker pilot and he will say they don't need more gas per tanker, they need MORE BOOMS! I'd bet dollars to donuts that TWO KC-767 tankers could fuel 12 aircraft more efficiently than ONE KC30.

george hanshaw said...

The KC-767 is going to spend more time and gas droning to and from the orbit point.

Not necessarily so if the 767 can be forward deployed at the fighter base while the A330 has to operate from a rear echelon base because of inadequate ramp space to support "heavies" at the forward base. This is NOT an unusual scenario.

Here is a quote from the Air Power Journal (a publication of the USAF Air University) on Kosovo tanker operations:

While US tankers provided the backbone of the air campaign, finding operating locations for so many KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft was challenging. Between 24 March and 8 June, tanker beddown became a major issue for the theater as the force grew from 55 to 175. Because the ideal airfields reached maximum capacity early in the campaign, USAFE formed 13 site-survey teams to examine 25 airfields for both tanker and fighter operations. Many were former Warsaw Pact or NATO fighter bases that lacked the runway length, ramp space, taxiway width, load-bearing capacity, and refueling infrastructure to sustain tanker operations.

http://www.airpower.au.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj99/win99/begert.htm

In the case above, the forward deployed alert KC-135s were backed up by orbiting unassigned KC-10s that had to be based too far from the FEBA for effective response otherwise. And the KC-10 is actually smaller (and has a greater fuel offload) than the A330.

Anonymous said...

It appears that all the above postings recognize that fuel cost comparisons between KC-767 and KC-30 over the 40 year contractural lifetime are going to greatly depend on the number of missions and the type of missions used for the calculation.

I know that the GAO threw out Boeing's protests over CMARPS, but I think this is another area where the re-bid proposal could be skewed heavily toward one plane or the other. I believe that Boeing might be able to bring legal action if the RFP terms/parameters are changed enough that the original RFP for a KC-135R replacement morphs into a replacement for the KC-10... without first going through the legally binding (?) process of generating a valid RFP. However, what would happen if the RFP was essentially unchanged but the CMARPS model was heavily skewed toward a large airplane, like the only CMARPS missions are ferrying squadrons of fighters from Alaska to Australia?

And for another slightly paranoid thought...

I've heard it said that the Navy likes large aircraft because that requires large aircraft carriers which in turn requires a large task force which in turn requires bigger, more capable airplanes to protect the task force which then requires large aircraft carriers ad infinitum. For arguments sake, assume this is true. Is the Air Force's apparent preference for a large tanker somehow a reaction against the growing importance of unmanned air vehicles (UAV's)?

I thought I read that a second important factor in ousting Wynne and Moseley, after the nuclear weapons safety problems, was Gates' frustration with the Air Force's slow deployment of UAV's to the two war fronts. So I'm reading between the lines that the Air Force wants more manned aircraft and doesn't want to accelerate use of UAV's. How many tankers does the Air Force need if UAV's are going to be 20%-50% (?) of the future aircraft? I don't think any current UAV's have an in-flight refuel capability but I suspect that future UAV's will, especially the proposed super-long endurance ISR UAV.

Anonymous said...

Dear george hanshaw,

you missed to cite the next paragraph of your link.

The distance of some tanker locations from refueling areas meant less fuel available for off-load, since transit times of up to three hours were required in each direction. Short runways at several locations reduced available fuel off-loads even more by decreasing tanker takeoff fuel.

Air Force had KC-135 and KC-10 during Kosovo war. So a plane with longe range capability was needed and a plane with with good takeoff performance.

That is the KC-45. After three hours transit time ( ~ 1,500 nm range) a KC-45 nearly has the same offload capability as a KC-10.

A330-200 has a much better take off performance than B767-300ER.
http://www.victoriaairport.com/pdfs/exec%20summary%20final%2007mar2008.pdf
(On page 17)
http://www.goldcoastairport.com.au/pdf/GoldCoastAirportTechnicalOperatingCapabilityJan07.pdf
http://www.goldcoastairport.com.au/pdf/GoldCoastAirportTechnicalOperatingCapabilityJan08.pdf
(page 7ff)

MHalblaub

Anonymous said...

MHalblaub,

Your reference has no bearing on the discussion. The Boeing KC-767 is NOT a 767-300ER aircraft. If you want to compare the two, use the ACTUAL numbers for the aircraft involved. Those numbers can be found here:

http://www.boeing.com/ids/globaltanker/usaf/KC_767/index.html

Look under 'KC-767 Specifications'. While you are there, take some time to read the other sections that clearly show the KC-767 is a FAR superior tanker.

Anonymous said...

Let me make this a real simple comparison. Lets assume all tankers are fueled to max capacity, unconstrained by runway and using standard 25 foot spacing for parking. Using the KC-135R as the benchmark then:
The KC-135R can fit 5 lbs into a 5 lb sack.
The KC-767 can fit 5.2 lbs into a 6.6 lb sack.
The KC-30 can fit 6.25 lbs into a 9.4 lb sack.
The KC-10 can fit 8.9 lbs into a 7.6 lb sack.

Clearly, the KC-10 is the most capable tanker of the lot. Boom & Droge capable, optional wing pods, and largest offload capacity per square foot of parking ramp. But when ramp space close to the fight is limited, and it always is, the KC-10 is placed in the rear. I believe the USAF needs a mix of tankers, smaller ones to the front, bigger ones in the back.

Between the KC-767 and the KC-30, the KC-767 is the better choice. Although the KC-30 is similar in size to the KC-10 (larger actually), it can't hold a candle to the KC-10 which has over 100,000 lbs more fuel capacity than the KC-30.

The problem with buying a modified airliner for a tanker is that modern airlines are designed to optimize seat-miles. KC-30 beats KC-767 there, but we're looking to use this puppy as a tanker. The KC-30 is not as good of a tanker as the KC-767.

Anonymous said...

"We ask that readers, both pro-EADS and pro-Boeing" you mean pro-Northrop? EADS won nothing the competition was between Northrop and Boeing or pro -Boeing/Aeronovali/JADC

george hanshaw said...

Monsieur MHalblaub

You missed the point. The KC-10s had to be based so far behind the lines (because forward ramp space was not available for them) that they were NOT useable for scheduled refuelings, they served only as a reservoir of unallocated fuel for pop-up receivers. It was the KC-10s, because of their excessive demand for ramp space, that were making the three hour flights to orbit on the periphery to catch the unplanned pop-up requirement, while the overwhelming majority of the receivers got fuel from the forward deployed KC-135s which actually fit on the ramp.

Look, you don't have to take my word for it. Go to Google Map and put in Spangdahlem. This is a US base in Germany that has been in operation for over fifty years. If you go to satellite mode and blow it up, you will see the whole base - runway, taxiways, etc. There is at the present time one (1) C-130 on the ramp, an aircraft which takes considerably LESS ramp space than the A330. You can, with careful queing, get about a half dozen C-130s on the ramp (although you give up fighter ramp space to do it), You could probably get in two large aircraft - C-5, KC-10, A330, maybe three if you don't mind parking them so one of the end ones must be moved to get the center one out. Frankly, even the KC-767 is a little larger than we'd like it to be, but at least it's useable. And this is a US airbase that we've been using for fifty years.

Now when we go to war, it's not like that. We generally have to use SPARSE airfields, and frequently the runways themselves simply can't take the WEIGHT of an aircraft as large as the KC-10 or A330.

Bigger isn't always better. If it was, the USAF might well be going after a KC-A380 or KC-747-800.

Why do you find this so difficult to understand, mon ami?

It seems so simple, n'est-ce-pas?

Anonymous said...

MHalblaub,

He spreads his EADS pr on Freerepublic too..
and agues his points demanding links or sourses,even when you show him that what he prints is utter EADS BS.


Tanker cc

Tanker War Blog said...

Dear Anonymous,

You quoted me correctly, "We ask that readers, both pro-EADS and pro-Boeing."

No, I do not mean "pro-Northrop".

The KC-30 is essentially an EADS product. As their PR machine retells ad nauseam, this tanker has been sold to 4 countries.

Since, there is no physical NG tanker and only EADS's A330MRTT and A310MRTT exist, I believe I have properly requested submissions from the fans of those aircraft.

Best regards,
Dr. Tanker

Anonymous said...

Touche' Dr. Tanker! Well put.

Anonymous said...

As for a high fuel transfer rate, that's great on the parking apron when connected to a hydrant system, but most receiver aircraft are limited in the rate at which they can accept fuel. Either the KC-767 or the KC-30 can perform equally here.

but when it comes to ramp parking on fuel spot you will have a probnlem with the KC-30 being so big that fuel distrobution pits would have to be dug up and moved which will add more cost, plus parking spots will also need to be revamped for the KC-30. Decreasing the number of usable parking spots due to wing tip to wingtip clearance of 50 feet by the AFI. The KC-767 will not need any ramp modifications as it will fit on current 135 parking spot. How many more Millions of US dollars spent for a oversized underrated ( compaired to the KC-10 kc-767 combo) EADS planes going to cost .

Then you have hangars, 90% of the current 135 hangars will not work for the EADS plane. and you must have a working HWA, corrosion, HSC hangars, Washrack and at least 1 fuelcell hangar, The KC-767 fits in all current 135 hangars. and no need to change taxi lines either for the KC-767.

Let see we save on a more fuel efficient plane in the KC-767, we save more jobs, we get a PROVEN platform with 4 varients already flying and refueling planes. Save taxpayers money on ramp/fuel disro pits. air and ground crew excited to work and fly on a new Boeing tanker that has a 75 year history of getting the JOB DONE. Boeing also has the Best technical support out there to deal with.

Tanker cc

Anonymous said...

Dear George,

I didn’t get it. According to you the KC-10 wasn’t useful during Kosovo war. Why did Air Force use them at all in this situation? Air Force just used 175 tankers at all. Air Force could have used forward deployed KC-135 to replace KC-10.

I miss the point about Spangdahlem. Air Base. This fighter wing base was rebuilt lately to accommodate the heavy C-17 with lavish space. I think the Google picture is rather old. Still better than the impressionistic drawing of Geilenkirchen AB. Picture of Ramstein AB nearby looks also rather old just like closed Rhein-Main AB with C-17s.

How do you use “sparse airfields” for tanker operation where you can’t use C-17 or C-5? I doubt that there is one “sparse airfields” where you can operate a KC-767 but you can’t operate a KC-45. Aerodrome Reference Code (ARC) is for B767 4D and for A330 it’s 4E. Code Element 2 is according to wingspan. Will Air Force operate tankers from runway widths less than 147 feet?

At the end of KC-X replacement program about 300 KC-135 will still be in service; more KC-135 than used in any recent war. As a tanker KC-767 is a valid KC-135 replacement while KC-45/KC-30/A330MRTT will offer a capability between KC-135 and KC-10.

MH

George Hanshaw said...

I didn’t get it. Obviously not. Did you try READING the cited article?

According to you the KC-10 wasn’t useful during Kosovo war.
I never said that. I said their use was limited by their basing options. READ the article.

I miss the point about Spangdahlem. Air Base. This fighter wing base was rebuilt lately to accommodate the heavy C-17 with lavish space. I think the Google picture is rather old. You make my point. After being used since the Berlin Airlift, Spangdahlem recently DID get a major increase in ramp space (as did Ramstein) PRECISELY BECAUSE EVEN THESE BASES THAT HAVE SERVED US FORCES FOR DECADES (Ramstein is USAFE headquarters) did not have the ramp space for jumbo size aircraft. Do you seriously think the smaller airfields you have to use in a war will? And the A330 is roughly 20 feet longer and 20 feet greater wingspan than the C-17.

How do you use “sparse airfields” for tanker operation where you can’t use C-17 or C-5? READ the article. Many airfields can only accept one or two large aircraft at a time. Base a large tanker or two there and it shuts down the base for any C-17s or C-5s. But ther IS room for smaller tanker aircraft, like the KC-135 and ostensibly the 767. Read the article.

I doubt that there is one “sparse airfields” where you can operate a KC-767 but you can’t operate a KC-45. Your doubts have little if anything to do with providing forward capability. Read the article.

Will Air Force operate tankers from runway widths less than 147 feet? Hell yes. We always have.

At the end of KC-X replacement program about 300 KC-135 will still be in service; more KC-135 than used in any recent war.
And we have them because they have a variety of missions they support currently. Nonetheless, ALL will eventually need to be replaced. That's what KC-Y was all about.

As a tanker KC-767 is a valid KC-135 replacement while KC-45/KC-30/A330MRTT will offer a capability between KC-135 and KC-10.

And why would we want a plane that is LARGER than the KC-10 and uses more ramp space than a KC-10, yet has less offload capability than a KC-10? If you truly believe the bigger is better mantra, why not more KC-10s? Or a KC-777? Or a KC-747-800 or KC-A380?

The purpose of the KC-X program was to do the initial purchase of the KC-135 replacements. That was what the RFP said, and that was why Boeing sized their proposal with a 767. Had the Air Force instead said, bigger is better, likely some of these other aircraft would have been offered. But they didn't. They SPECIFICALLY STATED that no extra credit would be given for offload above the KC-135 offload, then reneged in a totally illegal 'bait and switch' (see item #2 in the GAO report).

Now I have nothing against large tankers, they certainly have their place. But this wasn't the KC-Z program. If they want to reprioritize and say they want to first compete the KC-Z program, the USAF and DOD can certainly do that. But it can't be done by "adjusting" this RFP. If they do that, it becomes a whole new program and DOD could do nothing stupider than to pretend it isn't, because this will be in the courts for about three or four years and ultimately the courts will void the competition if DOD tries to steal a base on this. DOD is entitled to switch their priorities, they are NOT entitled to 'bait and switch' as they have done here, and their are valid reasons for that (in addition to procurement law that says they can't do it).