A conventional high wing military transport configuration, updated to the latest technology, provides a low risk, but highly capable multi-role tanker / transport. This concept can meet all current air refueling requirements while maintaining full capability for strategic airlift. Using a modular design philosophy, a family of next generation transport aircraft can be designed and manufactured to meet both the strategic and in-theater support roles.
The revolutionary box wing concept is the current focus of the advanced concept development work at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company under the AMA program. Given that the USAF will not replace its current tankers on a one-for-one basis, planners will face a “boom intensive environment” in future conflicts. A box wing configuration provides the operational advantage of multi-point / multi-boom refueling with a reduced aircraft size and advanced aerodynamics. A twin boom aircraft can provide the USAF with the same number of refueling booms, but at half the number of aircraft. The box wing tanker is also equipped with two drogue refueling systems for interservice and international operations. This allows a single aircraft to refuel two receptacle equipped aircraft, two probe equipped aircraft, or one receptacle and one probe equipped aircraft nearly simultaneously. The box wing tanker still retains a full cargo capability including roll-on/roll-off loading of vehicles, equipment, and ISO containers.
Another revolutionary concept studied at LM Aero is the blended wing-body transport. A configuration where the wing and fuselage are blended together into one structural component is attractive for future tanker/transport aircraft. The blended wing-body configuration provides generous internal volume for fuel and cargo, but with reduced structural weight. The concept can, like the box wing, employ multi-point refueling and by the nature of its basic shape, can be easily modified to meet low observable requirements.
In military use, AMA will be able to perform airlift and tanker missions through the use of integrated modular tanker systems. This will allow the use of one airframe, with the resulting logistics and operational advantages, to fulfill AMC airlift, airdrop, and air refueling missions. In the airlift role, the AMA can carry all the equipment of the Army's light divisions over a 4,000 NM range. The aircraft can airdrop more than 150 paratroops or two 60,000 pound airdrop loads. For tanker missions, the aircraft can exceed the fuel offload of the KC-135R while retaining its basic airlift capability.
The aircraft will also be an effective member of USAF Air Expeditionary Forces (AEFs) by providing strategic lift for deployments, tanker support in theater, and as a multi-mission aircraft for other AEF requirements. Modular airframe and systems design will allow low cost development of derivative vehicles for a variety of missions including reconnaissance and surveillance, electronic combat, rescue, special operations, global attack with future long-range stand-off weapons, and as a 'mother-ship' for advanced UAVs.