Interrogative Texaco


More than a few years ago while at 20,000 in the middle of the Med I finished a fuel check and told my trusty nose-gunner, Jim "Rev" Jones "We're fat on gas...2k above ladder". Rev, who cut his early cruise teeth in F-4 Phantoms off USS Midway, said "You're never fat on gas".

After that quick tutorial on fighters and airborne gas, let's look at some news that has come out regarding the status of the US Air Force Tanker question.First, airborne tanking is a vital element to our power projection capability. Aside from being a significant force multiplier, in many cases it is a required element for mission success. Navy aircraft, even when carriers can be positioned offshore of the vast majority of hot spots around the world, need fuel to extend missions and provide that margin for error needed when returning to your postage stamp of a landing field. Air Force aircraft, even when launching from land bases or in the fulfillment of their "global reach" tenet, often times have significant distances to fly and loiter requirements. Add in the "time sensitive strike" capability that is vital in this asymmetric battlespace and airborne fuel is essential to mission success.EADS North America, the branch of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company that is on our side of the pond, is making an aggressive move in the competition to be the US Air Force next tanker fleet with a report late last week that they have selected Bridgeport, West Virginia (no idea if Robert Byrd was included in site negotiations there) as the location for a new aerial refueling center of excellence, IF Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker is selected as the U.S. Air Forces next generation aerial refueling aircraft.I say an aggressive move because the hurdles are high for Northrop Grumman in this situation given the fact that their KC-30 aircraft is based on KC30_F18s_Still.jpgthe Airbus A330 airliner, currently under delivery to the Royal Australian Air Force and, according to the aforementioned web site is the U.K. government's preferred bidder for its Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft requirement. One BIG plus in the KC-30's favor would be the fact that the aircraft would be converted to the tanker role in Mobile, Alabama.The competition in this deal is the Boeing KC-767A, kc-767a.jpgcurrently under production/delivery contract to the air forces of Italy and Japan.Interestingly, both EADS and Boeing have agreements with Sargent Fletcher, Inc., of El Monte, Calif. to provide tanking hardware for their systems. Talk about cornering the market on airborne refueling equipment.As a former fighter guy, pulling up to a KC-767 or a KC-30 matters little - as long as there is gas to pass. The details of which company or which aircraft is selected to fulfill the Air Force's is better left to bean counters and pencil-necked GS-types/contractors in the Pentagon. We need something to replace the increasingly aging fleet of KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft, however, and either of these new systems will suffice nicely.

EADS North America and Cobham SelectBridgeport, West Virginia for an Aerial Refueling Center of ExcellenceCharleston, West Virginia; Arlington, Virginia, October 19, 2007 Bridgeport, West Virginia has been selected as the site for a new aerial refueling center of excellence that will provide key components for the Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker. The new facility will produce and support EADS advanced Aerial Refueling Boom System and Cobhams under-wing hose and drogue refueling system, developed with its U.S. subsidiary, Sargent Fletcher. The announcement was made by West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin at a press conference held in the State Capitol building.The production site, chosen after an evaluation that considered locations in several states, will be established if the Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker is selected as the U.S. Air Forces next generation aerial refueling aircraft. The facility will employ at least 100 skilled workers, and is to co-locate the production operations of EADS North America and Sargent Fletcher into two adjacent facilities at Harrison Countys North Central West Virginia Regional Airport.EADS North America will supply the KC-30 Tankers fly-by-wire Aerial Refueling Boom System from a new 32,000 sq. ft. production site, while Sargent Fletcher is to build the aircrafts two digital underwing hose and drogue pods at an adjacent 25,000 sq. ft. facility.We examined a number of sites across the country and chose Bridgeport because it offers a solid combination of location, community support and skilled workforce necessary to execute this critical national security program, said EADS North America Chairman and CEO Ralph D. Crosby, Jr. In particular, Governor Manchin and the West Virginia congressional delegation have a demonstrated record of support for industry. This investment decision - along with our previous selection of Mobile, Alabama as the potential site of the KC-30 Tanker final assembly facility - reflects EADS firm commitment to create jobs and insource advanced critical technologies into the United States.EADS North Americas Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS) is the most capable in-flight refueling system available today. Its fly-by-wire design features enhanced controllability and incorporates an automatic load alleviation system, which greatly aids the boom operator and the receiver aircrafts pilot during refueling operations.

Sargent Fletcher is the leader in the military hose and drogue refueling industry. All under-wing pods presently used by the U.S. Department of Defense are Sargent Fletcher products, and the company is the worlds only producer of an FAA-certified under-wing refueling pod.Although the Air Force has not completed selection of the contractor to build the new refueling aircraft, EADS and Sargent Fletchers commitment to West Virginia reaffirms that we are making great progress in attracting world-class companies to the Mountain State, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin said. These would be good-paying jobs with benefits, and it would open the door to additional aerospace and defense contractor opportunities. If finalized, this new aerial refueling center of excellence will be an important addition to our growing aerospace and high-technology industries.The EADS advanced aerial boom which is 40 ft. long and weighs approximately 2.5 tons is already present on the first of five KC-30B Multi-role Tanker/Transport aircraft that EADS is supplying to the Royal Australian Air Force. With the capacity to offload up to 1,200 gallons of fuel per minute, the ARBS is easily adaptable to future mission requirements, including the refueling of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).Sargent Fletcher will supply the Northrop Grumman KC-30s two FRL 905E-series hose and drogue refueling pods, which are the most modern in service today. These all-digital electric pods carry their own power system and can offload approximately 420 gallons of fuel per minute. Fitted with 90-ft. long hoses, they are designed for use with probe-equipped receiver aircraft, and are mounted on pre-existing outboard wing structures under the KC-30 Tankers wings. A Sargent Fletcher fuselage refueling unit, which utilizes the hose and drogue system as well, also will be part of the KC-30s refueling capability. It is located within the aircraft fuselage, near the boom and can be utilized to refuel probe-equipped U.S. Navy/Marine aircraft, along with those of allied forces.I congratulate our KC-30 Tanker team partners, EADS North America and Sargent Fletcher, on their selection of West Virginia., said Paul Meyer, Northrop Grumman vice president and general manager of the KC-30 program. This industrial announcement is strong evidence of the KC-30 Teams focus on risk reduction, economic expansion in America and commitment to be a catalyst for the creation of new centers of aerospace excellence nationwide.In addition to ARBS assembly activities for the U.S. Air Force KC-30 Tankers, EADS North Americas West Virginia facility also will provide long-term support and maintenance for the boom on in-service aircraft. EADS North America has significantly expanded its U.S. industrial footprint since the companys creation in 2003. New locations include the rapidly-expanding helicopter center of its American Eurocopter business unit at Mississippis Golden Triangle Region (which is producing UH-72A Lakota helicopters for the U.S. Army, along with other rotary-wing aircraft for homeland security missions); EADS CASA North Americas Mobile, Alabama customer support and training center, which will support the U.S. Coast Guards new HC-144A maritime patrol aircraft; and a facility in Russellville, Arkansas for EADS North Americas Integrated Shelter System operation.

-- Pinch Paisley

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