The Republic of Singapore Air Force currently relies on 4 re-engined KC-135R aerial refueling tankers, in order to extend the range of its fighter jets, and perform some long-range transport and cargo missions. This means that they share their aircraft type with the USAF, but it also means that they share the problems and rising operating costs that accompany aging aircraft.
In February 2012, the RSAF set a process in motion to replace their KC-135Rs with a new refueling aircraft. Two of the expected contenders are familiar. The 3rd is less so…
Boeing’s smaller KC-767 has been picked by Italy and Japan, and was eventually chosen by the USAF as its KC-46A. Boeing promoted that version at Aero Singapore 2012, and has a strong relationship with Singapore, but that may not be Singapore’s best option. If the RSAF wants the new USAF KC-46A version, instead of the earlier model KC-767A delivered to Japan, they’ll have to wait until it’s fully developed, tested, and certified. That’s likely to mean waiting until 2018, or later.
The 3rd option is also a 767. Israel Aerospace Industries’ Bedek subsidiary offers a cheaper B767 MMTT (Multi-Mode Tanker/Transporter), which can be based on carefully sourced used 767-200ER or 767 cargo aircraft, in order to bring the price way down. Colombia currently flies 1, and a new version is promised with the boom refueling system that Singapore’s American fighters would need. It was touted at the Aero Singapore 2012 exhibition, and Singapore also has long-standing defense ties with Israel. While the hose-and-drogue conversion is designed to ease international airspace certification through its similarity to the 767 cargo type cert, it remains to be seen whether a feature as significant as a boom can be added without additional time for re-certification.
B767 MMTT & Kfir C10
Feb 21/12: Quoting “industry sources,” Aviation Week reports that Singapore has issued its aerial tanker RFI. Speculation is that the formal RFP is due in mid-2012.
Outside the USA, aerial refueling orders tend to be for 1-6 planes, and even Britain and France are looking at just 10-14. A 4-plane order may not seem like much, but it’s about average size for the global market, on an item that typically carries a $150-300 million price tag. IAI Bedek thinks they have a way to beat that range; the question is whether Singapore will be OK with a conversion strategy. India was not, for instance, even though that meant a much more expensive buy.
Feb 16/12: 767 MMTT. IAI’s Bedek ciovil aircraft conversion specialists say that they have finalized the design and tests of certain new systems developed specifically for their new 767 MMTT. The new version will add a new fly-by-wire Boom refueling system, with a Remote Aerial Refueling Operator (RARO) station and day or night viewing systems, on top of the existing Hose & Drogue system. IAI Bedek’s Moshe Scharf tells Defense Update that:
“Three years ago we began developing the new generation of 767 MMTT. We are expecting the supply of this type of aircraft to certain European air forces in the coming months….”