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Subject: Small tankers
Volkodav    5/29/2010 4:41:22 AM
I have wondered why, small airforces like the RAAF in particular, don't opt for larger numbers of smaller tanker transports, say something about 737 size.
 
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Aussie Diggermark 2       5/30/2010 2:12:59 AM

I have wondered why, small airforces like the RAAF in particular, don't opt for larger numbers of smaller tanker transports, say something about 737 size.

Manpower. 
 
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Volkodav       5/30/2010 3:51:26 AM
True, but a 737 based tanker would be one of the easier types to crew using a flying reserve.
 
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Aussiegunneragain       5/30/2010 6:52:59 AM

We could crew four or five extra tankers, they only have a pilot, a co-pilot and a boom operator if we want them to be flying boom equipped. If we were short on pilots they would be a good asset to be flown by reservists and commercially maintained. Any of those ex airforce jocks working for Qantas can fly a tanker in a straight line if we needed them to and the same goes for the Qantas maintainers.  Its a good idea and I don't know why anybody hasn't already suggested it.

 
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Aussie Diggermark 2       5/30/2010 7:32:55 AM

We could crew four or five extra tankers, they only have a pilot, a co-pilot and a boom operator if we want them to be flying boom equipped. If we were short on pilots they would be a good asset to be flown by reservists and commercially maintained. Any of those ex airforce jocks working for Qantas can fly a tanker in a straight line if we needed them to and the same goes for the Qantas maintainers.  Its a good idea and I don't know why anybody hasn't already suggested it.



It's been suggested, but RAAF apparently isn't too keen. It's not only the pilots required but all the enabling crew, including ground staff etc as well. There are only so many dollars given to defence. To operate a larger than budgeted capability has to work it's way through the red tape to be authorised, funded, acquired etc etc.
 
There is of course also the hurdle of reserve staff flying frontline assets, which RAAF is also not keen on, but for reasons other than practical ones... 
 
 

 
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Aussiegunneragain       5/30/2010 8:09:56 AM


It's been suggested, but RAAF apparently isn't too keen. It's not only the pilots required but all the enabling crew, including ground staff etc as well. There are only so many dollars given to defence. To operate a larger than budgeted capability has to work it's way through the red tape to be authorised, funded, acquired etc etc.

 There is of course also the hurdle of reserve staff flying frontline assets, which RAAF is also not keen on, but for reasons other than practical ones... 

Of course it always comes down to money but when you consider that our entire fighter/strike fleet is unlikely to be able to operate on a sustained basis in most of our likely regional AO's without tanker support, you would expect that they might want to look at running a more balanced mix of pointy noses to blunt ones. I reckon we should have two tankers per frontline squadron as a bare minimum, with three being preferable to cover for mechanical failures. That would allow each squadron to operate a flight 24/7 at extended ranges.
I'm interested to hear what the RAAF's bee in the bonnet with reservists is.
 
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Volkodav       5/30/2010 10:14:17 PM
737 would provide economies though airframe, engine and some avionics commonalities with the VIP fleet, Wedgetail and P-8.  Think training, spares etc.
 
The other part of my thinking was, how often would we need to off load more fuel than a 737 could carry?
 
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Aussie Diggermark 2       5/31/2010 10:46:35 PM

737 would provide economies though airframe, engine and some avionics commonalities with the VIP fleet, Wedgetail and P-8.  Think training, spares etc.

 

The other part of my thinking was, how often would we need to off load more fuel than a 737 could carry?


So you'd add another orphan platform to RAAF's Orbat, when RAAF is clearly trying to go in the opposite direction? The basic airframe might be the same, but the modifications needed to turn it into a refueller suitable for RAAF's needs, ie: adding a boom, would make it an orphan.
 
If no-one in the world is using B-737 tankers, I'd suggest there is a pretty fair reason for it...
 
If you want a small tanker, go KC-130J-30. It's the same aircraft type as we already have in our inventory, but with the addition of refuelling pods only, no boom could be used. It would also fulfill a very useful helo refuelling role and would give us a long ranged specwarops insertion capability, that is TRULY necessary if we are to realistically consider SOCOMD as a strike capability.
 
We could also go the route of the USMC and turn these KC-130J tankers into "armed tankers" by incorporating Hellfire missiles and the appropriate sensors/targetting and C4I capability, to truly maximise the operational benefit of our investment. Hellfire, M299 etc is already in the ADF inventory, so it would be a relatively simple matter of completing the refuelling and Hellfire/sensor modifications to the existing in-service platform, all leveraged off the work the USMC has already done in this area and expanding the ADF holdings of such equipment.
 
With the USMC Harvest Hawk program being a staged capability enhancement (Hellfire/DAGR first, followed by Viper Strike and 30mm modular gun system down the track) this could be a very simple and cost effective way of providing a small tanker capability for ADF as well as a pseudo-gunship capability as required. 
 
The Harvest Hawk package is being designed as a roll-on, roll-off capability with dual refuelling and gunship operations possible. I can see such being a useful capability enhancement for RAAF, without breaking the budget... 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
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Volkodav       6/1/2010 7:45:48 AM
I agree the KC-130J / Harvest Hawk would be a good addition to the ADF but see this as a separate capability.  The idea behind the small tanker would be to have a boom and drogues where you need them when you need them, i.e. more than five of them.
 
There was an article several years ago when Boeing look to have the sole source 767 tanker lease deal stitched up suggesting that what the USAF really needed was a mix of smaller tactical (possibly stealthy) tanker and network nodes and a large tanker transport (KC-10 / 747), rather than a wide body airliner.  The 767 option was described, quite bluntly, as a government subsidy to keep the Boeing line ticking over, irrespective of what the USAF really needed.
 
I doubt that, if built, the 737 tanker transport would be an orphan for long, it would fit very neatly in the orbat of many small and medium airforces, especially if multi roled in some way, network node / airborne command post, ELINT, VIP and general passenger.
 
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