03/02/2021

Air Force study on future aerial refueling tanker could start in 2022

Air Force study on future aerial refueling tanker could start in 2022 – link

Source: Defense News

Article Headlines
  • The Air Force could begin to lay out its vision for a future aerial refueling tanker, previously known as KC-Z, as early as next year, the head of Air Mobility Command said Monday
  • The service intends to conduct an analysis of alternatives for an advanced aerial refueling aircraft in fiscal year 2022, AMC commander Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost said during a Defense Writers Group meeting with reporters
  • That study will help the Air Force determine precisely which capabilities a future tanker will need to operate in more heavily contested battlefields against the threats posed by nations such as Russia and China
  • In April, Will Roper, then the Air Force’s top acquisition official, told reporters that an agreement with Boeing for a new and improved KC-46 vision system could pave the way for autonomous aerial refueling. The addition of 4K high-definition cameras, modern processors and LiDAR (light detecting and ranging) sensors would help the new system accumulate much of the data necessary for a computer to correctly calculate all the variables that need to be solved for safe aerial refueling
  • “All you have to do is take that data that tells the world inside the jet the reality of geometries between the airplane and the boom outside the jet. Once you have that, you simply need to translate it into algorithms that allow the tanker to tank itself,” Roper said then
  • Van Ovost acknowledged the Air Force is still years away from being able to hold a competition for the platform formerly known as KC-Z. After the Air Force completes its procurement of 179 KC-46s — which, if its current buy rate holds, will occur around the 2027 timeframe — the service will buy a non-developmental “bridge tanker,” she said
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