Warplanes: Pakistan Gets Aerial Refueling


December 9,2008: Pakistan has received the first two of four Il-78 aerial refueling aircraft from Ukraine. The Il-78 is a modified Russian Il-76 transport. The tanker version can carry 105 tons of fuel. This will give Pakistan its first aerial refueling capability.

Meanwhile, the pioneer in aerial refueling, and largest practitioner, the U.S., is still trying to select a new aerial tanker. The chief competitors are the U.S. made KC-767, which has already been sold to Italy and Japan this year. The KC-767 is based on the Boeing 767-200 airliner, which sells for about $120 million. The 767 has been in service since 1982, and over 800 have been manufactured so far. Boeing developed the KC-767, at a cost of nearly a billion dollars, on its own. Boeing also developed the original KC-135 tanker in the 1950s, and has since built over 2,000 aerial tankers.

The current four engine KC-135 carries 90 tons of fuel and can transfer up to 68 tons. Consider that a B-52 carries over 140 tons of jet fuel, and an F-15, over five tons. A two engine KC-767 carries about as much fuel as the KC-135. The European firm Airbus, is offering the KC-30, based on the Airbus 330-300, which normally sells for $160 million each. The KC-30 carries 20 percent more fuel than the KC-767, and more cargo pallets (26 versus 19).

The KC-135 has long made itself useful carrying cargo and passengers, as well as fuel, and both the KC-767 and KC-30 have more capacity for this. The KC-767 was developed partly because it is about the same size as the KC-135 (wingspan is 156 feet, ten more than the KC-135). Thus the 767 could use the same basing and repair facilities as the 135. The KC-30 has been sold to Australia, and was briefly selected as the new U.S. tanker (the KC-45A) until lawyers representing the KC-767 intervened and forced a new round of evaluations.





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