System Intended For KC-45A Passes Gas For First Time
It was a good way for EADS to follow up last week's somewhat
surprising announcement of its win for the US Air Force's KC-X
tanker contract. On Friday, the European aerospace consortium told
Reuters it had carried out the first successful test of the
upcoming KC-45A's refueling boom.
Completion of the boom test -- which marked the first time the
new, fly-by-wire hardware had transferred fuel to another aircraft
in flight -- is the latest milestone in the company's admittedly
fast-tracked development program for the new aircraft. Less than
two months ago, EADS deployed the all-digital FRL 905E-series
refueling pods, which will be mounted on the wings of the new
tanker, for the first time.
Friday's test involved a rear-mounted Air Refueling Boom System
fitted to an Airbus A300 development aircraft, which passed fuel to
an F-16 in service with the Portuguese Air Force.
As ANN reported,
Northrop/EADS won the first phase of the Air Force KC-X tanker bid
on February 29, over a competing bid from American planemaker
Boeing. The news surprised many analysts and lawmakers, who
had expected Boeing's KC-767 to walk away with the victory... but
the Air Force says it chose the better aircraft.
The KC-45A is a derivative of the Airbus A330 commercial
airliner, and benefits from that airframe's newer design compared
with the Boeing plane. The A330 is also a much larger aircraft, and
offers more room for tankered fuel, and/or passengers and
Under its agreement with Northrop, EADS will supply green A330
airframes from its plants in Europe. Those planes will be flown to
a new facility in Mobile, AL to be outfitted with the EADS
refueling equipment, and other military-spec gear to be supplied by
That new facility will also host final completion tasks for the
upcoming Airbus A330-200 Freighter, with which the KC-45A shares
much of its basic frame.
Meanwhile, officials at Boeing are considering whether to mount
a legal challenge to dispute the Air Force's choice. USAF officials
will meet with Boeing executives later this week to present their
case for the selection.
Several US unions have also protested the choice, saying the Air
Force chose to provide Europeans with jobs over their US
counterparts. Ironically, a French union has criticized the
decision for almost the very same reason -- taking EADS to task for
its choice to outsource final assembly duties to workers in
Alabama. Those workers are calling for a day of protest March 9,
outside an Airbus plant in Saint-Nazaire, France.