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U.S. Air Force Wants Stealthy, Laser-Shooting Next-Gen Tanker
The U.S. Air Force, with the KC-46 in production, looks ahead to battlefield-ready follow-ons
Sep 28, 2016
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| Aviation Week & Space Technology
  • Stealthy Tankers?



    As Russia and China develop sophisticated weapons that can shoot down U.S. aircraft from farther away, Air Force leaders worry that their aerial refueling tankers, the backbone of the joint force, are vulnerable to attack.

    Gen. Carlton Everhart II, chief of Air Mobility Command (AMC), thinks about how to solve this problem every day. AMC is embarking on a new look at the art of the possible for the next-generation tanker fleet, often referred to as “KC-Z,” he tells Aviation Week. That future KC-Z may look very different from the large-bodied, commercially derived tankers of today: They could be stealthy, carry missile-shooting lasers, or even fly autonomously.

    “What is on the cusp of groundbreaking technologies? That is what we want on that airplane,” Everhart said Sept. 20 at the Air Force Association’s annual air and space conference. “Is it stealthy? I don’t know. Is it large? I don’t know. Is it medium, is it small, what is the combat offload?”

    STEALTH, LASERS FOR FUTURE TANKER FORCE?
    U.S. Air Force to kick off study on what next-gen tanker should look like

    Air Mobility Command is already engaging with industry on stealth, autonomy, armament

    Planners may draw on existing blended-wing, hybrid-wing airlift concepts

    “KC-Z” would come online in the 2030-40 time frame

    The Air Force has spent the last 15 years operating in the permissive skies over Iraq and Afghanistan, with no real need for radar-evading, armed tankers, he says. But adversaries such as Russia and China are developing sophisticated surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft weapons designed to foil U.S. forces’ ability to penetrate, leaving the Pentagon struggling to tackle the new anti-access, area-denied environment.

    A stealthy, armed tanker might be part of the solution, Everhart says. The tankers of the 2030s and ’40s will need to be significantly more survivable because they may accompany the next generation of fighters and bombers into this new battlefield. In other words, a nonstealthy tanker could give away the position of the stealthiest fighter jet.

    “Now that you are getting near-peer adversaries who have different technologies,” Everhart says, “and they have studied the way we fight, that is starting to change our calculus of how we might execute the next war.”

    The Air Force hosted an industry day on the next-generation tanker concept and will continue discussions with industry in order to solicit the best ideas, he says. The KC-Z study is expected to kick off in about six months and to last about a year.




    For a next-gen battlefield-survivable tanker, the Air Force may draw on Lockheed Martin’s concept for Speed Agile. Credit: Lockheed Martin


    The general hopes to speak with major industry players about applying low-observable coatings, using a blended, hybrid or flying-wing design to reduce the tanker’s radar cross section, or even outfitting the aircraft with lasers to defeat incoming missiles. AMC is open to an autonomous or remotely piloted tanker as well, he says.

    For a stealthy next-generation tanker, the Air Force may draw on the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL)Speed Agile concept demonstration, a decade-long collaborative effort by AFRL,
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    and
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    to develop technology for a stealthy, short-takeoff-and-landing airlifter. Boeing and Lockheed’s Speed Agile designs featured stealthy shaping and embedded engines. Though Speed Agile began in 2002 to meet Air Force requirements for an efficient, survivable airlifter able to deliver loads directly to the battlefield, the program ended in 2012 without transitioning to a development program.

    The Air Force may also be looking at Lockheed’s Hybrid Wing Body (HWB) and Boeing’s Blended Wing Body (BWB) concepts for a more fuel-efficient next-generation airlifter. The HWB combines a blended wing and forebody for aerodynamic and structural efficiency with a conventional aft fuselage and tail; BWB is a triangular, tailless design that merges the vehicle’s wing and body. Neither concept is specifically designed for stealth—features such as embedded engines and aligned edges are not apparent—but such an airframe would certainly be stealthier than today’s transport and tanker aircraft and could later be modified to reduce the radar cross section.

    The Air Force’s long-stated strategy for replacing its aging KC-10s and KC-135s begins with buying 179
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    Pegasus aircraft, with delivery beginning in August 2017. The service had planned to pursue a KC-Y acquisition starting in 2024, followed by a KC-Z in 2036. However, Everhart says they are now thinking about leapfrogging KC-Y for a next-generation KC-Z. Alternatively, KC-Y could just be a modernized KC-46—a KC-46B, per se.

    The KC-Z would likely come online in the 2030-40 time frame, he says—after the bow wave of modernization currently facing the Air Force has passed.

    “I look at the time lines, I look at the Air Force overall budget, and I ask, ‘Where can I logically not put an undue burden on the
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    , or an undue burden on the taxpayer?’ ” Everhart says. “[And] ‘where is my next opportunity to introduce an acquisition program?’ That is the reason we are looking at the 2035 time frame.”



    First published on September 23, 2016.
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Lockheed Martin and Boeing score contracts for unmanned Navy tanker

  • 26 SEPTEMBER, 2016
  • BY: LEIGH GIANGRECO
  • WASHINGTON DC


A four-way competition to build the US Navy's next carrier-based unmanned air system (UAS) expect to begin revising year-old, preliminary designs that were submitted before the mission changed.

Lockheed Martin and Boeing each received $43 million risk reduction contracts on 23 September from the US Navy. Two more bidders, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, are waiting for their awards.

The new round of contracts pays the contractors to convert their preliminary designs, which were tuned to support the navy's original requirement for a stealthy, carrier-launched surveillance and strike aircraft (UCLASS).

The navy has since converted the MQ-25 programme into the carrier-based airborne refueling system (CBARS). Rather than penetrating into defended airspace to detect and attack targets, the MQ-25s will mostly serve as an escort or "buddy" tanker for manned strike aircraft. The MQ-25 also would be equipped with a 19-23in-diameter forward looking infrared sensor turret for a surveillance mission in permissive airspace.

Industry sources say the navy is expected to release a draft request for proposals in Fiscal 2017, launching the bidding process for the development phase of the programme.
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FORBIN

Lieutenant General
Registered Member
Finaly as announced things seems going

White House Approves Boeing, Lockheed Fighter Sales To Gulf States
The Boeing part of the package includes up to 72 F-15E Strike Eagles for Qatar and up to 40 F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets for Kuwait
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$13 million per gun Upgrade.

Wow, I'd have thought $13 million might buy the gun itself, and its turret (without all the reloading and munitions).

But clearly, they are more expensive than I thought. $13 million to upgrade to Mod 4 per 5" gun.
believe it or not, a single Mk 45 would cost up to fifty (50) mil (this assumes just one copy would be procured), and I know it's hard to believe: the newest Abrams tank would be fifteen (15) max I guess ...
OTO is cheaper, but still, recently the Indian Navy order thirteen (13) for 260 mil (the deal was canceled for a reason other than technical, I figured) ... I think the guns come with life-time warranty (not sure if it covers a combat loss ROFL) and barrels replaced for free
 

Jeff Head

General
Staff member
Super Moderator
believe it or not, a single Mk 45 would cost up to fifty (50) mil (this assumes just one copy would be procured), and I know it's hard to believe: the newest Abrams tank would be fifteen (15) max I guess ...
OTO is cheaper, but still, recently the Indian Navy order thirteen (13) for 260 mil (the deal was canceled for a reason other than technical, I figured) ... I think the guns come with life-time warranty (not sure if it covers a combat loss ROFL) and barrels replaced for free
$50 million.

Well, they are great guns...but still, $50 million!

I know hat since 2005, after the prototype weapons had already been designed and tested, that something like $600 million has been spent on the production AGS for the Zunwalt class. That is for six turrets.

So that right there is $100 million for each 155mm AGS...and that is not the total cost. I do not know how much they spent in R&D before 2005.

So at east $100 million for each AGS!

Each of the vessels plans to have a magazine of 600 long range ballistic rounds plus 70 LRLAP rounds. There is also an auxiliary storeroom which can hold an additional 320 rounds of either type ammunition.

So, they will carry about 1000 rounds for ammo to sea.
 
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$50 million.
well, as I said, it's the max price, would be much lower if they're purchased for a class (AB Destroyers immediately come to my mind :)

Well, they are great guns...
they are
now I spent some time to locate this again (on my Facebook Profile :)

(it's on a KDX-II arriving at Vladivostok, Russia in the end of 2014) the point is what the guns have to endure (and stay alligned)

... the new AGS for the ZUnwalt ...
So, they will carry about 10000 rounds for ammo to sea.
you meant '1000', right? anyway considering the price of a round, which some in Internet say is 50 Grand, there would be one hundred mil in storage (for two guns) ... the equivalent, in cost, of maybe one hundred TLAMs!
 

Jeff Head

General
Staff member
Super Moderator
well, as I said, it's the max price, would be much lower if they're purchased for a class (AB Destroyers immediately come to my mind :)


they are
now I spent some time to locate this again (on my Facebook Profile :)

(it's on a KDX-II arriving at Vladivostok, Russia in the end of 2014) the point is what the guns have to endure (and stay alligned)


you meant '1000', right? anyway considering the price of a round, which some in Internet say is 50 Grand, there would be one hundred mil in storage (for two guns) ... the equivalent, in cost, of maybe one hundred TLAMs!
Hehehe...ooops..

Yes, 1000 rounds, not ten thousand!

Thanks...I'll fix the original.

Also, they have built 64 Burkes and are still building so you would think that the price for those 5" guns would drop!
...and if they had built 29 SUmwalts as they originally planned...or even 12 of them, the total price per unit would have dropped.

But heck, they have 64 Burkes and are still building and you would think that new ones would be cheaper now!
...and if they had built 29 SUmwalts as they originally planned...or even 12 of them, the total price per unit would have dropped.

But heck, they have 64 Burkes and are still building and you would think that new ones would be cheaper now!
 
Hehehe...ooops..

Yes, 1000 rounds, not ten thousand!

...
it was an obvious typo, but the problem is if this is the way how to provide a fire support (enormous money were spent on the Zumwalt class and now I think one hundred mil in storage may become a financial problem even for the US Navy ... Jeff I think you remember they've already skipped the stealthy turrets with Bofors 57mm and put just 30 mm instead ... not my business anyway :)
 

Jeff Head

General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Jeff I think you remember they've already skipped the stealthy turrets with Bofors 57mm and put just 30 mm instead ... not my business anyway :)
Yes...I was aware of this.

But those are secondary and I expected they would ultimately replace them with Laser and Rail guns anyway.
 

Jeff Head

General
Staff member
Super Moderator
and in the meantime, no CIWS on the Zumwalts?!
As I said, ultimately they will have either Laser, or Rail Gun, or both. And tey will be for CIWS, and I think they will go right there on that deck.

in the mean time, the quad packed ESSMs are considered capable in that arena.

Fact is those 57mm bofors were not going to be what I consider to be strong CIWS anyhow.
 

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