KC-46 Tanker

Rockwell Collins has awarded a contract to Sofradir EC for the supply of high-resolution infrared (IR) cameras for the US Air Force’s (USAF) KC-46 refuelling tanker development programme.

Forming a subcontract to Rockwell Collins’ KC-46 contract with Boeing, the contract covers the supply of IR cameras for its remote vision system (RVS), which combines 2D and 3D technologies in normal and long-wave IR spectrums to enable aerial refuelling under any lighting conditions.

The cameras will be primarily used for enhancing pilots’ situational awareness, as well as in the vision system required for aerial refuelling operations.

Sofradir EC president Frank Vallese said the company will use its extensive expertise in IR imaging engine development to help Rockwell Collins in their contribution to the new tanker programme.

Sofradir EC Sales vice president Chris Alicandro said the participation in tanker development programme provides an excellent application for the company’s high resolution commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) infrared imaging cores

”Our cores are ideal for a multitude of thermal imaging systems, including handheld, ground vehicle and airborne EOIR platforms,” Alicandro added.

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As a major supplier to Boeing on the KC-46 programme, Rockwell Collins is also providing an integrated display system, a tactical situational awareness system (TSAS) and a signal data concentrator network, as well as advanced communications, navigation, surveillance, networking and flight control systems.

Developed from Boeing 767-200ER, KC-46 is a military aerial refuelling and strategic transport aircraft, designed to replace the USAF’s ageing KC-135 Stratotankers fleet, which has served as its primary refuelling aircraft for over 50 years.

Boeing is under contract to deliver 18 KC-46 refuelling aircraft by 2017 to the USAF, which is planning to procure a total of 179 tankers.

Deliveries will continue until 2028, with the initial flight of the first aircraft scheduled to take place in late 2014.

The number of units ordered and delivery schedule has not been disclosed by the company.

Image: A KC-46 tanker conducting a mid-air refuelling mission.

Defence Technology