Western Tanker Aircraft In-Service Fleets By Family: 2019-2029

Aviation Week Network estimates that at the start of 2020, there were 871 Western-designed aircraft performing air-refueling missions. A total of 442 deliveries and 175 retirements are forecasted over the next 10 years, growing the global fleet to 1,117 by the end of 2029, for a compound annual growth rate of 2.52%. This figure includes both jet-powered tankers like the Boeing KC-46 and aircraft like the Airbus A400M, which can refuel helicopters and slow-flying aircraft. It does not include fighters capable of buddy tanking.

Hover over charts to see percentages. 




In 2020 the global tanker market is dominated by two types, the Boeing KC-135 and the Lockheed Martin KC-130. Together, these two types represented 71.9% of all western tanker aircraft. The 416 KC-135s made up 47.8% of the global tanker fleet. Despite the impending retirement of 53 of these aircraft in the next decade, it will remain the world's most common tanker through 2029, with a still-dominant 32.5% of the global fleet. In second place with just under one fourth of the global fleet are the KC-130 variants of Lockheed Martin's ubiquitous C-130 transport. While the number of these aircraft will increase by 2029, their relative share of the tanker market will decline to 20.2% as the overall market grows. Over the next decade, Boeing's 767 based KC-46 (and KC-767) will overtake the Airbus A400M for third place as twice as many KC-46s will be delivered than will be A400Ms.


1 Comment
Where is the KC-46 in the second chart? Hiding under the 767 pie-wedge?