Can the C-17 transport aircraft be used as a AWACS &airborne refueling aircraft?

Re: Can the C-17 transport aircraft be used as a AWACS &airborne refueling aircr

The Il-86 shares the same general configuration and is used in both roles. So probably yes. Remains to be seen if it would make sense in practice.
 
Hi Aero Franz, thanks for the reply, you think the US military would consider then this airframe to be used as a AWACS and airborne refueling aircraft since they are currently looking to replace their E-3 and K-135's with a new aircraft...wonder why they will not standardize to one type of airframe for multiple missions?
 
I've being wondering the same thing with regard to the RAF, I would be interested to see the price if we developed a tanker version/conversion. I don't see the E3 being an issue at the moment as ours are substantially newer than the USAF versions.

The advantage would be simplified logistics. However, I would guess that the initial airframe costs would be higher and that operating cost may be higher. Virtually all current western tankers are based on twin engined aircraft.

Regards.
 
Re: Can the C-17 transport aircraft be used as a AWACS &airborne refueling aircr


You mean the Il-76, don't you?

AeroFranz said:
The Il-86 shares the same general configuration and is used in both roles. So probably yes. Remains to be seen if it would make sense in practice.
 
Re: Can the C-17 transport aircraft be used as a AWACS &airborne refueling aircr

A tanker variant of the C-17 was indeed marketed, although obviously, the initial airframe procurement costs were much higher than for a comparable civilian airliner based solution, and I suspect that operating costs would have been much higher as well. Typically speaking, refueling tankers don't require the take off and landing capabilities of a true, high wing, military transport such as the C-17.

As far as AEW variants, keep in mind that the high platform costs are huge disadvantage and the airfield performance issue is also largely irrelevant.

Yes, the Soviets did produce tanker and AEW variants of the Il-76 "Candid," but there again, they lacked suitable civilian jetliners at the time, and the ones they did have weren't notably economical in operation, or entirely suited to either role.
 
A tanker variant of the C-17 was indeed marketed,

Indeed - Boeing offered it to the RAAF as part of a complete package that replaced almost the entire ADF transport fleet from Chinooks through to C-17s.

Regards,

Greg
 
IIRC, the "KC-17" would have mounted the refueling boom to the lower half of the aft cargo door. It's an interesting concept to think about at a time when the AF can't seem to get a new tanker without some allegations of wrongdoing or incompetence during the contract phase, and there's no money/political support for the added airlifters that the AF probably needs. Why not meet both requirements with the same aircraft?

While the C-17's STOL capabilities might seem wasted for the tanker mission, there might be some merit there. After all, one of Boeing's selling points for the KC-767 was its ability to fly from a larger number of airfields than the bigger KC-330. But the C-17 beats the pants of both planes in that regard. If the next war is anything like the ones from the previous 30 years, there will likely be be plenty of airfields to accomodate the biggest tanker that's seriously been proposed.
 
I have always been an advocate of dispersed air operations in time of war or troubled times.
This I think the West is far behind that of the ex-Warsaw Pact doctrine (with the exception of the likes of Sweden, Switzerland etc….)
I have always seen merit in the Soviets use of the likes of IL-76 as the basis of their AWACS – especially due to its ruggedness and outstanding rough field operational capability
I have always liked the idea of force multipliers the likes of AWACS/AEW using a STOL transport design (always a fan of the C-130/AEW proposal by the RAAF in far Northern Australia – operating from dirt airstrips for periods of time), so as to allow them to be dispersed for operation – knowing that they are and will be a primary target of any sensible aggressor!
But I have to concede that the modified STOL transport design is not as economical as a modified civilian airliner.
But when it comes to military operations and defence, do the politicians truly understand the difference in cost of through life operations and true military reality? (Saying this the military waist of money and mismanagement can be its own worst enemy!!!!)

Regards
Pioneer
 
Re: Can the C-17 transport aircraft be used as a AWACS &airborne refueling aircr

frank said:
You mean the Il-76, don't you?

AeroFranz said:
The Il-86 shares the same general configuration and is used in both roles. So probably yes. Remains to be seen if it would make sense in practice.

Right! My bad, I had a senior moment ;)
 
los rusos podrían haber utilizado il 86 como base para un awacs. Hice este en escala 1/144. Mis mejores deseos
(The Russians could have used the '86 as a base for an awacs. I made this one in 1/144 scale.)
 

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It would be possible to modify any STOL military cargo plane - with a tail ramp - for aerial refueling. The simplest modification involves hanging probe-and-drogue pods under the outer wings (ala. USMC KC-130 Hercules). Embraer is already offering this configuration for their new KC-90 cargo plane/tanker.
Probe-and-drogue pods have been hung under a dozen different types of civilian airliners modified by air forces after they retired from hauling passengers.

It would be more difficult hanging the USAF flying boom system from a cargo plane's ramp. Fortunately only the USAF uses that system.

The most difficult modification involves mounting a huge, rotating antenna disk above the fuselage. Note how many of the smaller electronic warfare and surveillance airplanes (e.g. Canadair Challenger)have fixed radar antennas.

These retrofits work best for small air forces that can barely afford one type of transport airplane and only one pile of spare parts.

Note how several British and American private military contractors have purchased air force surplus tankers and crewed them with retired military aircrew. These civilian tankers often orbit just outside of contested countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, etc.)waiting to refuel military jets entering or exiting the fight.
 
IIRC, the "KC-17" would have mounted the refueling boom to the lower half of the aft cargo door. It's an interesting concept to think about at a time when the AF can't seem to get a new tanker without some allegations of wrongdoing or incompetence during the contract phase, and there's no money/political support for the added airlifters that the AF probably needs. Why not meet both requirements with the same aircraft?

While the C-17's STOL capabilities might seem wasted for the tanker mission, there might be some merit there. After all, one of Boeing's selling points for the KC-767 was its ability to fly from a larger number of airfields than the bigger KC-330. But the C-17 beats the pants of both planes in that regard. If the next war is anything like the ones from the previous 30 years, there will likely be be plenty of airfields to accomodate the biggest tanker that's seriously been proposed.


This always baffled me, yes the KC-330 was a bigger plane but it had excellent airfield properties right across the spectrum and all feedback that I ever got was that it reality the KC-330 had a wider range of airfields available to it than the KC-767. The Pegasus seems to have been a master class in smoke and mirrors on a lot of fronts.
 
Though the C-17 was touted for a number of rolls for the RAF based on a bigger buy to replace a number of aircraft (initially from a cargo and tanker aspect). Boeing and RR pitched a 25-40 aircraft model powered by approx 45,000lb RB-211's (with then a combined marketing pitch to Canada/Aus/India etc afterwards to cover the costs of a much more Brit spec C.17 that Commonwealth allies would be interested in). This was late 90's days C.17, but the plan was always to have a potential RR engined version as the RB.211 version touted was a lot lighter than the F117 that was adopted. The more Brit spec C-17 touted was more akin to the C17B and was in general a higher spec ship.

Obviously would have affected the A400M project but potentially a wide ranging order covering cargo/tanking/AEW at the time might have made sense (hell, why not throw in an MPA version and a stand off missile platform! :) )
 
And let's go crazy, gunship, ELINT, C&C/stand off targetting etc. Always felt there was a lot left in the C-17 and it was canned too early. Some of the hours the early US birds have racked up means a second wave of prod would have been good just now and I could see second wave purchases from most operators as they are all shy of an optimum fleet size.
 
los rusos podrían haber utilizado il 86 como base para un awacs. Hice este en escala 1/144. Mis mejores deseos
(The Russians could have used the '86 as a base for an awacs. I made this one in 1/144 scale.)

What is the purpose of the chin mounted radome

Also in term of the fuel load of a KC17, how much of it's internal volume could have been used to carry fuel? As far as I am aware the Voyagers only carries it's normal fuel load of an A330, it does not carry any additional fuel cells as done by the VC10, the remaining volume being used for freight and/or passengers.

Regards.
 
Many civilian airliners can accommodate extra fuel tanks in belly baggage compartments.
Some USAF ANG C-130 SAR airplanes have giant, cylindrical fuel tanks in their cargo compartments.
 
IIRC, the "KC-17" would have mounted the refueling boom to the lower half of the aft cargo door. It's an interesting concept to think about at a time when the AF can't seem to get a new tanker without some allegations of wrongdoing or incompetence during the contract phase, and there's no money/political support for the added airlifters that the AF probably needs. Why not meet both requirements with the same aircraft?

While the C-17's STOL capabilities might seem wasted for the tanker mission, there might be some merit there. After all, one of Boeing's selling points for the KC-767 was its ability to fly from a larger number of airfields than the bigger KC-330. But the C-17 beats the pants of both planes in that regard. If the next war is anything like the ones from the previous 30 years, there will likely be be plenty of airfields to accomodate the biggest tanker that's seriously been proposed.


This always baffled me, yes the KC-330 was a bigger plane but it had excellent airfield properties right across the spectrum and all feedback that I ever got was that it reality the KC-330 had a wider range of airfields available to it than the KC-767. The Pegasus seems to have been a master class in smoke and mirrors on a lot of fronts.
Part of the problem was that KC-30 (USAF version had a lot of differences from the KC-330) had a higher ground-pressure when fully loaded (requiring stronger runways & taxiways).

Reducing the fuel load to the same as KC-46 (again, USAF version is rather different than KC-767) meant that you were hauling the same off-load with a heavier, draggier airframe - meaning that KC-30 burned more fuel for itself on a "same offload & mission profile" flight than KC-46.

And, KC-30's higher offload capacity was really unneeded - the tanker was to replace KC-135R, which itself, while having a lighter fuel offload capacity than KC-46, almost never (and almost never did historically, even in wartime use) flies operationally with a full fuel-load!

So KC-30 would have been hauling around a larger, heavier airframe (with unneeded excess capacity), burning more fuel in the process... why should the USAF buy that version?

It is the KC-Y and KX-Z tanker types where the replacement for the KC-10s (which again almost never used anywhere close to its max offload capacity) justifies the offload capacity of the KC-30.
 
My own 2 cents, for what's its worth. In the days of Mitchell Burnside Clapp "Black Horse / Black Colt" aerial refueling rockeplanes, one major issue was H2O2 oxidizer transfer. Classic aerial tankers are transfering fuel - kerosene - rather than oxidizer.

Solution 1 was to modifiy KC-135s, as done for the SR-71 "Q" variant with the special JP7 fuel. But oxidizer is a different matter. (it is an entirely different kind of flying altogether - all together ! LMAO).

So, as a solution 2 (here we go !) they considered strapping fuel trucks or fuel tanks inside military cargo planes - such as the C-141 or C-17. Take the truck or tank, fill it with H2O2, roll that into the cargo plane with a refueling hose or boom "kit" attached to it. Once in flight, open the rear cargo door, throw the hose or boom, and refuel the rocketplane.

When Clapp left the military for private rocketry (Pioneer rocketplane, 1996 with Zubrin) they returned to LOX oxidizer and planned to load an Il-76 with a tankload of it, then same as "solution 2" above.

Doing that way would help (a bit) solving the Air Force hatred of cryogens, a major issue when discussing rocketplanes with them. A tank or a truck can be safely bolted to a pallet, itself loaded into a cargo plane.

Bottom: a cargo plane "aerial refueling kit" being essentially agnostic to the tank contains. A C-141B could carry 40 tons, a C-17 80 tons and a C-5 110 tons. Stratolaunch could ferry 250 tons.
 
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