The South Korean Government is reportedly planning to defer the long-pending acquisition of in-flight refuelling tanker aircraft for the national air force.

The KRW1.4trn ($1.26bn) project is likely to be postponed until around February 2015 because the bidders are yet to make an acceptable offer, as reported by Chosun Ilbo.

An unnamed Defense Acquisition Program Administration official said: "It seems that the plan to choose the model in December will be delayed because offset deals offered by bidders fall short of our goal, although price negotiations have reached the final stage."

Airbus Defence and Space, Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) are competing to sell four aerial refuelling aircraft to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) between 2017 and 2019.

While Airbus is offering an A330-based multi-role tanker transport, Boeing and IAI have pitched KC-46 Pegasus, and an advanced version of the B767-300ER aircraft, respectively.

The A330 is a military variant of the civilian Airbus A330-200 airliner that can perform air-to-air refuelling without any additional fuel tanks.

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The KC-46 is based on the Boeing B767 airliner. It is a military aerial refuelling and strategic transport aircraft designed to operate in chemical, biological and nuclear conditions. The aircraft can also transport cargo, passengers and support aeromedical evacuations.

"It seems that the plan to choose the model in December will be delayed because offset deals offered by bidders fall short of our goal."

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 new tankers are expected to help ROKAF fighter jets remain airborne for longer periods and increase their weapon-carrying capacity.

Specifically, the aircraft are expected to extend the operational range of ROKAF F-15K Slam Eagle and KF-16 fighter aircraft fleet, as reported earlier by Yonhap News Agency.

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: Airbus is offering A330 multi-role tanker transport for South Korea’s in-flight refuelling tanker acquisition project. Photo: courtesy of Outisnn.

Defence Technology