Posts Tagged ‘Airbus’

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]

 

So what’s going on with the Tanker buy?

The President’s first 100 days are over – and still no word on what is going to happen with one of the most watched Pentagon acquisition programs in years.

The Air Force tanker program (to replace the aging KC-135’s).

SecDef Robert Gates has said he opposes a ‘dual buy’ (some from Airbus and some from Boeing) option.

There isn’t a even a concrete ‘dual buy’ proposal on the table, only suggestions from some Senate subcommittee chairmen as a way to break the impasse. And even then – the actual committee chairmen have not yet decided other than to wait to see what the Pentagon proposes.

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Breaking – Airbus will not bid on new Air Force One contract

According to an Exclusive post over on Ares (AvWeek milblog) – an Airbus spokesman in Washington has said they do not plan on bidding on the replacement for the current Boeing 747-200 versions of Air Force One (VC-25).

Many had expected Airbus to propose their A380 superjumbo for the size and range requirements outlined in the Air Force RFI.

 

[UPDATE] And you thought the Air Force Tanker was a heated debate….

Then get ready for the competition between Boeing and Airbus over building the new Air Force One.

It will be an interesting showdown between the Boeing 747-800 (Intercontinental) vs the Airbus A380.

No matter who wins – I am sure that the interior will be installed by a ‘trusted’ contractor – so that there is no repeat of the bug issue on the Chinese President’s Boeing 767.

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Airbus A330 tanker

Airbus A330 MRTT The Airbus A330 MRTT (multi-role tanker-transport) seen here in RAAF markings – being tested before the addition of the air refueling package.

In addition to the Australian order (5 airplanes), Airbus is currently working on these additional orders;

  • UK (RAF) – 14 aircraft (delivery in 2011, as a lease (similiar to the original Boeing 767 proposal to the USAF)
  • UAE – 3 aircraft (MOU signed in 2007)
  • Saudi Arabia – 3 aircraft (MOU signed in 2008)

I will have to hand it to the Airbus engineer’s – for their plane – they used the wing from the A340 (which was designed for 4 engines).  The refueling pods (for the probe and droque system – that everyone BUT the USAF uses) will be attached on the wings were the outboard engines would have gone.

 

Why is the Tanker contract such a big deal?


KC135 refueling EC135

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

Unless you have been hiding under a rock or completely oblivious to Defense mattters, you know that the GAO overturned the landmark KC-X aerial refueling (tanker) contract that the US Air Force awarded to the Northrup-Grumman/EADS (Airbus) team.

Recap:

The Air Force has needed to replace the KC-135 (based on the original Boeing 707 prototype) for the last 10 years. But the controversy around this contract was thrown into the spotlight right after 9/11 (2001).

Boeing proposed a lease of converted 767’s to the US Air Force at a reduced rate (Boeing would benefit by keeping its 767 production line open, and the Air Force would get needed planes). But the scrutiny of this deal – by none other than Republican Presidential contender, John McCain – killed this deal, and resulted in the resignations/indictments of several Air Force and Boeing officals.

When the Air Force was forced to put the contract out for bid, there was a surprise bidder. EADS (Airbus) in partnership w/ Northrup-Grumman. Initially – no one thought NGA had a chance.

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