Airbus Defence and Space, Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) have submitted bids for South Korea’s in-flight refuelling tanker aircraft contract.

Biddings for the contract include Airbus’s A330-based multi-role tanker transport; Boeing’s B767-based KC-46 Pegasus, and IAI pitched an advanced version of the B767-300ER aircraft.

The A330 is a military variant of the civilian Airbus A330-200 airliner, which can perform air-to-air refuelling without any additional fuel tanks. It is currently operational in Australia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the UK.

The KC-46 is a military aerial refuelling and strategic transport aircraft designed to operate in chemical, biological and nuclear conditions. It can also transport cargo, passengers and support aeromedical evacuations.

IAI’s upgraded B767-300ER aircraft will feature hose and drogue refuelling pods, a boom, or both, and will be modified for air refuelling missions and transportation of supplies and military forces.

"The South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration said that the three aircraft will undergo testing from this month."

The South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said that the three aircraft will undergo testing from this month, and a final contractor will be selected by the end of November 2014. Estimated to be worth $1.38bn, the contract is expected to cover delivery of four aircraft for South Korea’s first tanker squadron.

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The aircraft are expected to be acquired between 2017 and 2019.

The new tankers are expected to extend the operational range of the Republic of Korea Air Force’s (ROKAF) F-15K Slam Eagle and KF-16 fighter aircraft fleet amid escalating tensions in north-east Asia, Yonhap News Agency reported earlier.

South Korea has long been planning to acquire tanker capability to augment its air defence, but the plan has been repeatedly stalled due to budgetary constraints and changing priorities.

Image: An artistic impression of Boeing KC-46 next-generation tanker during in-flight refuelling. Photo: courtesy of Boeing

Defence Technology