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KC-X is the name of the United States Air Force program to procure its next-generation aerial refueling tanker aircraft. This aircraft is intended to replace some of the older Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers. The United States Air Force announced on 29 February 2008 that Northrop Grumman and EADS was selected as the company who will build the new tankers with their modified Airbus A330 design, to be designated the KC-45A. This contract is for 179 new tankers and would have been worth an estimated US$40 billion.

On 18 June 2008, the U.S. Government Accountability Office sustained a protest by Boeing on the award of the contract to Northrop Grumman and EADS. On 9 July 2008, the Defense Secretary Robert Gates reopened the bidding process, but canceled the current KC-X solicitation on 10 September 2008. In September 2009, the USAF began the first steps toward accepting a new set of bids.


The DoDmarker posted a request for proposal on 30 January 2007. The U.S. Air Force's main requirements are "fuel offload and range at least as great as the KC-135", airlift capability, ability to take on fuel in flight, and multi-point refueling capability.

Two manufacturers expressed interest in producing this aircraft:

In February 2007, the Seattle Times commented on the pre-final designs: "Northrop has been viewed as the underdog, with a heavier, less fuel efficient aircraft. The Airbus tanker would have a maximum fuel capacity of 200,000 pounds. Northrop spokesman Randy Belote said Northrop's K-30 would tack on roughly 20 percent in fuel capacity."

Both competitors submitted their tanker proposals before the 12 April 2007 deadline. The competitors submitted final revisions of their proposals to the U.S. Air Force on 3 January 2008. On 29 February 2008, the DoD announced their choice of the Northrop Grumman/EADS's KC-30.

In December 2007, it was announced that this aircraft will be designated the KC-45A regardless of which design wins the competition. The DoD anticipated that the KC-45A would start to enter service in 2013.

On 11 March 2008, Boeing filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the award of the contract to the Northrop Grumman/EADS team. Boeing stated that there are certain aspects of the USAF evaluation process that have given it grounds to appeal. Their protest was upheld by the GAO on June 18, 2008, who recommended that the Air Force rebid the contract. On 9 July 2008, the Defense Secretary Robert Gates put the contract for the KC-45 into an "expedited recompetition" with Defense Undersecretary John Young in charge of the selection process instead of the Air Force. A draft of the revised RFP was provided to the contractors on 6 August 2008 for comments with the revised RFP to be finalized by mid-August. Proposals would be due in October 2008 and selection was to be done by the end of 2008. In mid-August, there was speculation that Boeing was considering a "no bid" position.

On 10 September 2008, Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled the RFP. "Rather than hand the next Administration an incomplete and possibly contested process, Secretary Gates decided that the best course of action is to provide the next Administration with full flexibility regarding the requirements, evaluation criteria, and the appropriate allocation of defense budget to this mission," a Pentagon release stated.

On 16 September 2009 Secretary Gates announced a renewed effort for the KC-X program. The selection process will be under the Air Force with a "robust oversight role" by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to prevent a repeated failure. On September 24, 2009, the USAF began the first steps to accept new bids, making efforts to correct criticisms of the GAO from the last bid round, with a clearer set of criteria, including reducing the total number of requirements from 800 to 373 in an attempt to simplify the process. However, the mandatory requirements increased from 37 to 373.


A330 MRTT - KC-30 KC-767 Advanced Tanker
(based on 767-200LRF)
Surface area
Fuselage width
Fuselage height
Engines (2x) RR Trent 700 or
GE CF6-80 turbofans
Pratt & Whitney PW4062
Thrust (× 2)
Passengers 226-280 190
Cargo 32 463L pallet 19 463L pallets
Maximum fuel capability greater than
Max. takeoff fuel load greater than
Cruise speed Mach 0.82 ( ) Mach 0.80 ( )
Maximum speed Mach 0.86 ( ) Mach 0.86 ( )
Max. takeoff weight greater than
Max. landing weight
Empty weight

Sources: Northrop Grumman KC-30, KC-30 brochure, KC-30 Specifications, Airbus A330, KC-767 Advanced Tanker, Boeing 767, Civil Aircraft, A330 FSTA

See also


  1. "DoD Announces Termination of KC-X Tanker Solicitation", US DoD, 10 September 2008.
  2. Air Force Resumes Tanker Contest
  3. Boeing Submits KC-767 Advanced Tanker Proposal to U.S. Air Force
  4. Northrop Grumman Submits KC-X Tanker Proposal to U.S. Air Force
  5. "Boeing, Northrop Submit Final Tanker Proposals To USAF", Aviation Week, 4 January 2008.
  6. "Northrop Wins Tanker Contract, Beating Out Rival Boeing", Wall Street Journal, 29 February 2008.
  7. "Boeing, Northrop vying for KC-10 service deal",, 7 December 2007.
  8. "New tanker to bring increased capabilities to warfighter", US Air Force, 3 March 2008.
  9. "Boeing Protests U.S. Air Force Tanker Contract Award", Boeing, 11 March 2008.
  10. "Air Force officials respond to Boeing protest" USAF, 12 March 2008.
  11. Kruzel, John J. "Pentagon Reopens Bidding on Tanker Contract", US DoD, 9 July 2008.
  12. "Pentagon Issues New Tanker Bid Parameters", Aviation Week, 6 August 2008.
  13. "SecDEF announces return of KC-X program". Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, 16 September 2009.
  14. Pentagon's new tanker rules exclude trade fight
  15. Boeing-Airbus tanker battle resumes today
  16. Alabama lawmakers say Pentagon tanker rules unfair
  17. Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems - KC-45 Tanker
  18. A330-200 specifications. Airbus.
  19. KC-767 Advanced Tanker product card
  20. 767 Airplane Characteristics for Airport Planning. Boeing.
  21. Frawley, Gerard. The International Directory of Civil Aircraft, 2003-2004. Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd, 2003. ISBN 1-875671-58-7.
  22. A330-200 Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) - Multi-Role Tanker Transporter (MRTT), Europe

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