While the U.S. Air Force’s KC-X tanker replacement program is held in abeyance–waiting for the incoming Administration to sort out–the support contract for the service’s existing KC-135 fleet is building into a saga of epic proportions. A U.S.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates last week called off the revised KC-X tanker solicitation before the final request for proposal (RFP) was issued.“We can no longer complete a competition that would be viewed as fair and objective in this highly charged environment,” he said.
Boeing faces a tough decision, now that the Pentagon has confirmed that bigger is better in the KC-X tanker competition. “We’ve now revised the language to make it unambiguous that we intend to provide consideration above threshold for fuel offload,” said U.S. director of defense procurement and acquisition policy Shay Assad. He spoke at a press briefing on August 6, to introduce the draft revised request for proposals (RFP).
Northrop Grumman rates its chances of clinching the KC-X contract as only 50 percent, if the US Congress intervenes in the decision. Paul Meyer, who heads the company’s bid team, told Aviation International News of his confidence that the Pentagon would select the KC-45 again second time round. But he fears that protectionist sentiment could overturn the verdict.
Northrop Grumman rates its chances of clinching the KC-X contract as only 50 percent, if the U.S. Congress intervenes in the decision. Paul Meyer, who heads the company’s bid team, told Aviation International News of his confidence that the Pentagon would select the KC-45 again the second time around. But he fears that protectionist sentiment could overturn the verdict.
Boeing still believes that the KC-767 is the right-size airplane to meet the KC-X tanker requirement, despite the U.S. Air Force’s selection of the larger Airbus A330MRTT, now voided. “I’m not convinced that they want a bigger airplane,” Chris Chadwick, president of Boeing Military Aircraft told AIN as the show opened.
The U.S. KC-X tanker win in February was a major breakthrough for EADS (as part of the Northrop Grumman team), which has established operations in Mobile, Alabama, already and started to relocate A330 freighter activity there, too. But the champagne corks are back in after the U.S. GAO in June upheld seven points in Boeing’s protest at the U.S. Air Force procurement.
The intense debate over the U.S. Air Force’s choice of a new tanker continues. Boeing claimed that the KC-767 was found to be “more survivable” than the Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) in the USAF evaluation. Northrop Grumman launched a new Web site to refute various allegations about its A330MRTT bid and ask why Boeing did not raise concerns about the selection process earlier.
Boeing is formally protesting the U.S. Air Force’s “surprise decision” in favor of the Northrop Grumman/EADS Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) for the KC-X tanker requirement. According to the Air Force, the keenly fought award is worth $35 billion for up to 179 KC-45As–the new, officially approved designation.
Boeing delivered the first of four KC-767 Tankers to Japan yesterday, 15 months behind schedule. Before leaving U.S. airspace on a 14-hour ferry flight to Gifu airbase neat Nagoya, it flew in formation with the No. 2 airplane that will follow after the Japan Air Self-Defense Force completes a formal acceptance process.