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Author Topic: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker  (Read 26233 times)

Offline Flyaway

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Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« on: September 20, 2016, 02:00:27 pm »
They could skip the KC-Y competition and go straight to the KC-Z.

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/air-force-could-pursue-stealthy-penetrating-kc-z-tanker
« Last Edit: September 21, 2016, 10:09:41 am by Flyaway »

Offline sferrin

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2016, 02:35:19 pm »
Stealth tanker?  Why not just save time and money and cancel that plan right now.  This should be the KC-Y:

"DARPA Hard"  It ain't what it use to be.

Offline flateric

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2016, 04:15:19 pm »
This is not a LO platform. There's another though.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2016, 04:17:54 pm by flateric »
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Offline sferrin

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2016, 05:29:31 pm »
Looks cool but too expensive.  Sometimes I wonder if there's somebody who's sole function is to come up with ways that guarantee program cancellation.
"DARPA Hard"  It ain't what it use to be.

Offline Dynoman

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2016, 06:13:13 pm »
Stealthy Mobility and Support Aircraft

Offline FighterJock

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2016, 08:07:49 am »
What would happen to the Flying Boom once it had refueled a fighter or bomber?  Looks rather cool if I say so myself.   B)

Offline AeroFranz

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2016, 09:14:09 am »
- the UARRSI receptacle is not stealthy, otherwise B-2s, F-117s, F-22 would not have that feature retractable.
- Flying booms are not stealthy
- two aircraft flying in formation more than double the individual RCS

so you can make a stealthy receiver and a stealthy tanker airframes, but how do you make a stealthy connection and transfer of fuel?
I dunno, i don't see penetrating assets refueling inside contested air space...i could see a reduction of the standoff distance required, that yes.
Not saying it can't be done, just that the physics and the penalties associated are against you.
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Offline NeilChapman

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2016, 09:44:10 am »
Stealthy Mobility and Support Aircraft


Let's face it.  The idea isn't that you're flying a tanker into the middle of a high-threat environment.  It's that the high-threat environment is extending to where tankers have typically flown.  The expectation is that high-threat will be - or is - 600-1000nmi out from targets.  The adversary will by-pass your fighters to eliminate the tankers leaving the fighters w/o fuel to return.  This leaves several billion dollars of strike package that will take forever to replace likely floating in the ocean somewhere. 

But let's look at some options.

Flying a KC-46 into a high threat environment.  Designed for a low to medium threat environment.

KC-46 - US$250Million a pop - ~200k lbs of fuel - 200 planned inventory - Critical asset
Upside
1)  Existing tanker

Downside
1)  You can't bolt on enough stuff to ensure it's survivable in a high-threat environment.  At most you'll 'augment' it's capabilities. It's a big, fat RCS target even when it's not fueling.
2)  You'll assign an air patrol to protect these assets.  That increases the value/costs of KC-46 by the value of the other airframes. (4-F-35's valued at ~US$400Million)
3)  Integrate into naval defensive systems.  Add weapons systems. Add a weapons officer. - Serious development costs.  Still a big fat target.

Make the MQ-25 stealthy - Use it as a connector for the KC-46.  KC-46 stays back, MQ-25's deploy forward coming back to KC-46 for fill ups. 
1)  Won't have a boom - AF is left stranded. 
2)  Navy seems to have little interest in this.  Not likely to be successful.

Build tanker variant of B-21

KA-21 (Tanker/Attack B-21 variant) - ~US$500Million - ~150k+lbs of fuel - limited inventory - Critical asset
Upside
1)  Designed for high threat environment.  When it's not fueling it's not there.  Will disappear quickly.
2)  Designed for unmanned operations
3)  Airframe in development w/2025-28 IoC
4)  Additional airframes or variant of B-21 will lower acquisition, operations and upgrade costs of strategic bomber fleet.
5)  Forward deployed sensor fusion - assists in it's own defense - no need for HVACAP
6)  If it uses F-35 code - AEGIS & F-35 weapons integration.
7)  Limit 1st version to boom only (dev costs) - Navy has MQ-25
8)  Leverage NG's autonomous aerial refueling knowledge
9)  Possibly replace co-pilot w/boom operator leveraging unmanned operations tech in lieu of co-pilot.

Downside
1)  Seems expensive - tough sell
2)  Have to work w/Boeing to develop new boom - telescoping to fit in area of bomb bay perhaps. 
3)  Add boom operator for initial version - dev program to work toward autonomous system

EDIT - Expect NG would work w/Airbus on the refueling boom.  I'm guessing that Boeing would have absolutely zero motivation to work with 'NG' on this. 


« Last Edit: September 21, 2016, 09:53:39 am by NeilChapman »

Offline marauder2048

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2016, 11:14:22 am »
- the UARRSI receptacle is not stealthy, otherwise B-2s, F-117s, F-22 would not have that feature retractable.
- Flying booms are not stealthy
- two aircraft flying in formation more than double the individual RCS

so you can make a stealthy receiver and a stealthy tanker airframes, but how do you make a stealthy connection and transfer of fuel?
I dunno, i don't see penetrating assets refueling inside contested air space...i could see a reduction of the standoff distance required, that yes.
Not saying it can't be done, just that the physics and the penalties associated are against you.


My understanding is that a hose-reel system for B-2 -> F-22 refueling was seriously examined more than a decade ago and was shown to meet the survivability requirements.
It only fell down on the retrofit costs for both aircraft.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2016, 09:04:56 pm by marauder2048 »

Offline AeroFranz

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2016, 06:37:50 pm »
Interesting - i had never heard of that.
Do you know if it was a probe and drogue setup just like the Navy's or somehow it plugged into the current receptacle?
All modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics.   TSR.2 got the first three right - Sir Sydney Camm

Offline Dynoman

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2016, 07:07:22 pm »
A couple more images of stealth tanker concepts:

Offline marauder2048

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2016, 09:14:31 pm »
Interesting - i had never heard of that.
Do you know if it was a probe and drogue setup just like the Navy's or somehow it plugged into the current receptacle?

It was to be a probe retrofit for the F-22. This was during the era of Northrop Grumman's unsolicited B-2C proposal.

Offline Hood

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2016, 01:56:46 am »
I'm slightly confused as to where the KC-Z fits in and concepts like the Arsenal Plane.

According to a recent quote from Flightglobal Brig Gen Alexus Grynkewich, team lead for the 2030 air superiority study, said he sees the Arsenal Plane as a large platform with a heavy payload that would not need to be manoeuvrable or stealthy because its long-range would ensure its survival; ďAn Arsenal Plane is something thatís large, long-range, not very manoeuvrable, [with] very long weapons.Ē

So is KC-Z designed to go ahead of the Arsenal Plane? At what point do your tanker assets need to be ahead of your strike package. Of course the F-35s and F-22s need to be ahead of the arsenal plane to provide it with the targeting data, but the concept of the Arsenal Plane gives them some stand-off capability. A stealthy KC-Z would give the fighters more loiter time perhaps but it seems an odd choice.
Though I must admit the Arsenal Plane seems the odd one out, there seems to be some overlap, F35 + AP and B21 + PCAP; in effect a fighter-led strike package and a fighter-supported strike package.
Just trying to make sense of the choices or is the DoD just chucking around ideas?

Offline Archibald

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2016, 02:13:30 am »
Sounds obvious to me - There is a very simple way of having a stealth tanker. Just put some fuel tanks in a Northrop B-2A bomb bays, and use the Navy probe-and-drogue system (no need for a fixed boom)
According to Wikipedia,
Quote
The B-2 is capable of carrying 40,000 lb (18,000 kg) of ordnance

Not a lot of fuel, but well enough for a F-35 or even a F-22.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2016, 02:15:35 am by Archibald »
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Offline hesham

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Re: Air Force Could Pursue Stealthy Aerial-Refueling Tanker
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2016, 05:48:17 am »
A couple more images of stealth tanker concepts:

Nice find my dear Dynoman.