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Here’s Who’s Bought Those Retired Singapore Air Force KC-135R Tankers

Meta Aerospace has revealed that it is the buyer of four former Republic of Singapore Air Force KC-135R Stratotankers, which it says will provide private aerial refueling services to the U.S. military. This makes it only the second commercial firm to acquire boom-equipped tankers, the first being Omega Air Refueling.

FlightGlobal
was first to confirm that the United Kingdom-headquartered defense contractor, which also has an office in Washington, D.C., had acquired the quartet of ex-Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) KC-135Rs, that the service retired last year. The first of these aircraft, which now carries the U.S. civil registration code N573MA, is now at March Air Reserve Base, an Air Force Reserve base in California, after having left Singapore earlier this week. The company said that it expects the other three aircraft to touch down in the United States by the end of November.

“With its extensive defence-as-a-service offerings and air mobility experience, this addition of four KC-135R aircraft enables Meta to deliver turnkey aerial refuelling services to meet our US government customer’s requirements,” the firm told FlightGlobal. Meta’s website also says that it “delivers turnkey air-to-air refueling (AAR) solutions to meet defense customers’ under-resourced refueling requirements.”

In addition, the Meta Aerospace site says that it has partnered in its private aerial refueling endeavors with Consolidated Air Support Systems (CASS), another aerospace contractor headquartered in Temecula, California. CASS’ Allied Defense Services International (ADSI) division provides tanker-related training services, among others, to various air forces. Posts on Twitter had indicated that CASS-ADSI had posted job listings looking for boom operators recently on Linkedin, but there do not appear to be any active job listings on that site for that company at the time of writing.

Meta Aerospace’s purchase of these four KC-135Rs comes as U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), by way of the U.S. Air Force, continues to explore options for hiring private contractors to provide aerial refueling support for non-combat activities, including test and evaluation, training, and general long-distance movement of aircraft, especially fighter jets, from one location to another. Having companies fly tankers acquired on the foreign surplus market is one of five options the Air Force previously identified in a report to Congress, which you can read about in more detail in this past War Zone piece.

Omega Air has already been providing non-combat tanker support to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps since 2001, but the bulk of its fleet is configured to support aircraft that use the probe-and-drogue refueling method, which those services, among others, use. The Air Force primarily uses the boom refueling method and TRANSCOM will need to hire firms operating these types of tankers if it hopes to provide these services across the U.S. military, as a whole. The ex-RSAF KC-135Rs do also have underwing probe-and-drogue refueling pods, which could make them more flexible in meeting the command’s requirements, as well.


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