26 Nov 14. South Korea defers purchase of in-flight refuelling tankers. The South Korean Government is reportedly planning to defer the long-pending acquisition of in-flight refuelling tanker aircraft for the national air force. The KRW1.4trn ($1.26bn) project is likely to be postponed until around February 2015 because the bidders are yet to make an acceptable offer, as reported by Chosun Ilbo. An unnamed Defense Acquisition Program Administration official said: “It seems that the plan to choose the model in December will be delayed because offset deals offered by bidders fall short of our goal, although price negotiations have reached the final stage.” Airbus Defence and Space, Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) are competing to sell four aerial refuelling aircraft to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) between 2017 and 2019. While Airbus is offering an A330-based multi-role tanker transport, Boeing and IAI have pitched KC-46 Pegasus, and an advanced version of the B767-300ER aircraft, respectively. The A330 is a military variant of the civilian Airbus A330-200 airliner that can perform air-to-air refuelling without any additional fuel tanks. The KC-46 is based on the Boeing B767 airliner. It is a military aerial refuelling and strategic transport aircraft designed to operate in chemical, biological and nuclear conditions. The aircraft can also transport cargo, passengers and support aeromedical evacuations. IAI’s upgraded B767-300ER aircraft will feature hose and drogue refuelling pods, a boom, or both, and will be modified for air refuelling missions and transportation of supplies and military forces. The new tankers are expected to help ROKAF fighter jets remain airborne for longer periods and increase their weapon-carrying capacity. Specifically, the aircraft are expected to extend the operational range of ROKAF F-15K Slam Eagle and KF-16 fighter aircraft fleet, as reported earlier by Yonhap News Agency. South Korea has long been planning to acquire tanker capability to augment its air defence, but the plan has been repeatedly stalled due to budgetary constraints and changing priorities. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
25 Nov 14. Europe kick-starts tanker procurement project. Europe has formally begun the acquisition process for a new aerial refuelling capability under the Multinational MultiRole Tanker Transport (MRTT) Fleet (MMF) project, it was announced on 21 November. With the European Defence Agency having already harmonised requirements, a co-operation agreement was signed between the NATO Support Organisation and the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) to launch the acquisition phase of the MRTT MMF project on the same day as the announcement. According to OCCAR, this agreement sets the framework and conditions under which it will manage the acquisition phase of the aircraft on behalf of NATO. The project will be led by the Netherlands, with Norway also participating. Both nations have established a support partnership within the NATO Support Organisation (NSPO), which will oversee the acquisition and operational sustainment of the MRTT MMF aircraft. Although not mentioned in this announcement, Belgium and Poland are expected to join the project also. Airbus Defence and Space is likely to contest the requirement with its A330-200 MRTT platform, as is Boeing with its KC-46A Pegasus. Service providers AirTanker and Omega Air have also expressed an interest in bidding. IHS Jane’s understands that a downselect is expected before the end of the year, with a contract award due before the end of 2015. Initial operating capability is scheduled for 2019.
Comment As recent operations over Libya and Iraq have proven, aerial refuelling is the key enabler that makes the mission possible (over Libya, 25% of all the 26,500 sorties flown by coalition aircraft during the eight-month campaign were flown by tankers). For decades, a shortfall in indigenous European aerial refuelling capability ha