Tanker wars – finally over?

With last week’s announcement that Boeing has won the latest round of the KC-X tanker contract – the Air Force may finally be on its way to replacing the aging and overworked KC-135 fleet.

This contract has been up for debate for almost 10 years, when Boeing originally proposed to lease new 767-based tankers to the Air Force at what would be a dramatic markup over buying the aircraft outright. When the Congressional outrage and indictments died down, the Air Force had to start over, and the competition was between Boeing (US) and Airbus (Europe).

The original contract was awarded to a partnership of Northrup-Grumman and Airbus in 2008, but Boeing challenged that award and the GAO forced the bidding to be restarted in 2009.

Airbus said all of the right things. Their plan was to build their existing A330 Multi Role Tanker at a new plant outside of Mobile, AL. They were already building this same aircraft for Australia (even though there have been some hiccups in the testing – notably part of the refueling boom falling off during testing in Europe). But when the decision was announced, it turned out that Boeing had beat Airbus’ price by 10%. Which in today’s tough economic times, may have been the only thing considered.

The Air Force – in an attempt to derail any possible challenges to this latest ruling, spent an extra day debriefing Airbus on why the decision went the way it did. And so on Saturday, the word has come out that EADS (Airbus parent company) will not challenge the latest result in this contract battle.

[It should be noted, that the Boeing offering changed from what had originally been proposed back in 2001/2002, so the prototype that Boeing modified – dubbed the Frankentanker – will not be resurrected for use under the latest contract award]

Be Sociable, Share!
 

Comments are closed.