Primes invests in autonomous aerial refueling technology

FARNBOROUGH NEWS: Primes invests in autonomous aerial refueling technology

Photo by Boeing

FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom — The Air Force is looking for its next aerial tanker refueling, and rivals for the contract have unveiled several new autonomous capabilities at the Farnborough National Air Show.

The competition for a new tanker variant could be a clash between Boeing’s plane and Lockheed Martin’s new platform based on an Airbus body. Now autonomous capabilities can be in the mix.

Lockheed Martin is partnering with Airbus to adapt its A330 multi-role tanker transport body LMXT to compete for the program. Boeing’s Pegasus KC-46 is a tanker currently in use by the Air Force.

Tim Flood, Boeing’s senior director of international business development for Europe and the Americas, told reporters that autonomous refueling of the KC-46A is one of many autonomous capabilities the company is working on. He pointed to the MQ-28 Ghost Bat unmanned aerial vehicle and the Orca ultra-large unmanned underwater vehicle, both of which are under development.

“Self-fueling is part of that broader corporate perspective of how we empower the customer,” he said on July 20. we continue to grow.

Boeing has the advantage of supplying the Air Force with tankers for many years. But the KC-46 program ran into trouble.

For example, the platform’s remote visual system, which allows pilots to refuel, had design flaws. The company agreed with the Air Force to fix the system at Boeing’s expense.

Flood delayed the Air Force from disclosing when the upgrades would be completed, but noted that Boeing is in the first part of a review of the project.

“They’re happy with what we produced in the design review,” he said. “So I don’t have any reason to think there’s any problem going forward.”

Meanwhile, Airbus announced this week that its A330 multirole tanker is certified for automatic air-to-air refueling, or A3R boom, for daylight operations. The company claims to be the first in the world for this type of certification.

Airbus has partnered with the Royal Singapore Air Force to test the technology. Along with autonomous technology, it has also developed advanced surveillance technology. Spain’s National Institute of Aerospace Technology performed the certification, according to a press release.

Airbus is also building a demonstrator to further develop its autonomous capabilities, such as aerial refueling and formation flight operations. According to the company, the technology developed by the demonstrator Auto’Mate will be used in 2023.

According to the company’s press release, the technology will be a “disruptive step forward” in current autonomous operations, a “high-demand” opportunity that will reduce crew fatigue and training costs.

Airbus hopes to demonstrate an end-to-end flight in 2024. in the middle, according to the report.

While companies tout their cutting-edge capabilities, their efforts may not have an impact on the competition. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has said he may cancel the tender if demand for the aircraft does not pick up.

Earlier this spring, he told lawmakers during a House Armed Services Committee hearing that no final decision had been made on the tender.


Topics: Air Force News, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Air Power

Godfrey Kemp

"Bacon fanatic. Social media enthusiast. Music practitioner. Internet scholar. Incurable travel advocate. Wannabe web junkie. Coffeeaholic. Alcohol fanatic."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.