Rendering of KC-45 refueling a B-2
Role Tanker/transport
Manufacturer EADS/Northrop Grumman
Status Lost competition to KC-46
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built None
Developed from Airbus A330 MRTT

The EADS/Northrop Grumman KC-45 was a proposed aerial refueling tanker aircraft based on the Airbus A330 MRTT. The United States Air Force (USAF) had ordered 179 KC-45As in the first stage of replacing the aging Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker tankers currently in service. However, the contest was reopened in July 2008, after Boeing's protest of the award was upheld. In response to the new contest, on 8 March 2010, Northrop Grumman announced it was abandoning its bid for the new contract, with its CEO stating that the revised bid requirement favoured Boeing.[1] On 20 April 2010, EADS (now known as Airbus SE) announced it was re-entering the competition and entered a bid with the KC-45.[2] Eventually, the USAF selected the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus.



Main article: Background to KC-X

From the late 1990s the USAF decided to replace its fleet of KC-135s. Initially the first batch of replacements was to be an air tanker version of the Boeing 767-200, which was selected over the Airbus 330-based tanker.[3] Instead of outright purchase, as is the usual practice, the Air Force would lease the 767 tankers from Boeing. In January 2006, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced the cancellation of the KC-767 contract. Rumsfeld stated that this move would in no way impair the Air Force's ability to deliver the mission of the KC-767, which was to be accomplished by continuing upgrades to the KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender fleets.[4]

KC-X program

Main article: KC-X

In 2006, the USAF released a request for proposal (RFP) for a new tanker aircraft, known as the KC-X RFP, which was updated in January 2007 and was to be selected by 2007.[5][6] KC-X is the first phase of three acquisition programs to replace the KC-135 fleet.[7]

On 29 February 2008, the Department of Defense announced that it had selected the Northrop Grumman "KC-30" (designated the KC-45A by the USAF) over the Boeing KC-767 for the first stage of the program.[8] On 11 March 2008, Boeing filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for the award of the contract to Northrop Grumman.[9] Following the protest filing, Northrop Grumman and Boeing engaged in media campaigns in support of their tanker aircraft.

On 18 June 2008, the Government Accountability Office upheld the protest by Boeing on the decision to award the contract to Northrop Grumman, indicating that the USAF had not properly evaluated the Boeing and Northrop Grumman bids.[10]

On 9 July 2008 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced the contract for the KC-45 as an "expedited recompetition".[4] Defense Undersecretary John Young was placed in charge of the review process, the Air Force having been removed from the award process. On 10 September 2008, the US Defense Department canceled the KC-X solicitation. Funding for KC-X is to be requested for FY10-FY15.[11] In September 2009, the USAF began the first steps toward accepting new bids.[12] In March 2010, Northrop Grumman announced that it would pull out of the bidding process.[13]

EADS and Boeing submitted their final KC-X tanker bids on 10 February 2011. On 24 February 2011, the USAF announced the Boeing's bid had won the KC-X contract.

Production plans

The first four units would have been converted from passenger versions at EADS EFW in Dresden, Germany. Airbus planned to assemble the aircraft in Mobile, Alabama, after which they would have been modified by Northrop Grumman. EADS had also announced plans to shift A330 commercial freighter assembly to Alabama.[14] As the winner of the Air Force contract, Northrop Grumman and EADS (the airframe subcontractor) were expected to invest approximately US$600 million in new assembly plants in the United States adjacent to one another in the Brookley Complex in Mobile.

EADS's failure to win the contract meant that the Alabama production line for the Airbus A330 was never set up. However, on 30 June 2012, EADS announced a new factory at Mobile, Alabama to manufacture the narrow-body Airbus A320,[15] which began operations on 14 September 2015.[16]


Main article: Airbus A330 MRTT

The A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) is a military derivative of the Airbus A330 airliner. It is designed as a dual-role air refueling tanker and cargo transport aircraft. The wing air refueling pods are supplied by the British company Cobham. The cargo hold has been modified by Telair to be able to transport military pallets in addition to civilian ULD.

The A330 MRTT has a fuel capacity of 245,000 lb (111,000 kg) in the wings and underfloor tanks. The underfloor tanks do not compromise main deck cargo capacity or seating in the strategic transport role. Standard fuel capacity allows the carriage of an additional 43,000 kg of cargo. The A330 MRTT's wing has common structure as the four-engine A340-200/-300 with reinforced mounting locations for the A340's outboard engines. The A330 MRTT's wing therefore requires little modification for use of these hardpoints for the wing refueling pods.[17][unreliable source?]

The KC-45 will be fitted with an Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS), two Cobham 905E underwing refuelling pods and one Cobham 805E Fuselage Refuelling Unit (FRU).


Note: specifications denoted with a "*" are for the A330.

Data from KC-30,[18] KC-45,[19] and Airbus A330[20]

General characteristics


See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ Andrejczak, Matt (8 March 2010). "Northrop drops out of bid to make Air Force aerial tankers". San Francisco: MarketWatch. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  2. ^ "EADS North America intends to submit proposal for U.S. Air Force tanker" (Press release). Leiden: Airbus. 20 April 2010. Archived from the original on 12 August 2016. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  3. ^ Cook, Dan (1 May 2002). "Boeing Given Nod on Tanker Lease". Military Aerospace Technology. Vol. 1, no. 2. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 12 April 2007.
  4. ^ a b U.S. plans expedited rerun of aerial tanker contestRetrieved 9 July 2008. Archived 27 April 2020 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Air Force Posts KC-X Request for Proposals". Release Number: 070107 (Press release). Washington DC: USAF. 30 January 2007.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "The USAF’s KC-X Aerial Tanker RFP". Defense Industry Daily, 12 July 2010.
  7. ^ "Air Force Posts Request for Proposals for Tankers". Release Number: 113-07 (Press release). DOD. 30 January 2007. Archived from the original on 5 March 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  8. ^ "Tanker contract award announced". Washington DC: USAF. 29 February 2008.
  9. ^ "Boeing Protests U.S. Air Force Tanker Contract Award" (Press release). St. Louis: Boeing. 11 March 2008. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  10. ^ "Statement Regarding the Bid Protest Decision Resolving the Aerial Refueling Tanker Protest by The Boeing Company" (PDF). B-311344 (Press release). Washington DC: GAO. 18 June 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 October 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  11. ^ "DoD Announces Termination of KC-X Tanker Solicitation". Release Number: 758-08 (Press release). DOD. 10 September 2008. Archived from the original on 5 March 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  12. ^ Cole, August; Sanders, Peter (25 September 2009). "Air Force Resumes Tanker Contest". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  13. ^ "Statement From Northrop Grumman on U.S. Air Force Aerial Refueling Tanker Program" (Press release). Washington DC: Northrop Grumman. 8 March 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  14. ^ Trimble, Stephen (14 January 2008). "KC-X win would shift A330 Freighter assembly to US". Washington DC: Flightglobal. Retrieved 1 March 2008.
  15. ^ "Airbus is coming: Agreement approved for $600 million, 1,000-worker plant in Mobile". al.com. 30 June 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Airbus officially opens U.S. Manufacturing Facility". Airbus. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  17. ^ A330-200 Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) – Multi-Role Tanker Transporter (MRTT), Europe. Airforce-technology.com.
  18. ^ "KC-30 Tanker" (PDF). Northrop Grumman. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 November 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  19. ^ "KC-45 Performance Specifications". Northrop Grumman. Archived from the original on 9 July 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  20. ^ "A330-200 Specifications". Airbus. Archived from the original on 4 March 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2008.