Northrop Grumman/EADS KC-45A tanker  (Source: Northrop Grumman)

  (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Boeing calls out to the General Accounting Office for help

It seems almost inevitable that things would come to this, but Boeing will officially file a protest today citing its concerns over the U.S. Air Force's decision to go with Northrop Grumman/EADS's KC-45A tanker design. Even though the KC-45A, built on a highly modified Airbus A330 airframe, appeared to win the contract based on its superior performance on nearly every front, Boeing wants the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to further investigate the decision.

The call for the GAO to review the Air Force's decision came after Boeing was debriefed on the reasons why Northrop Grumman/EADA won the $35 billion contract two weeks ago.

"Our team has taken a very close look at the tanker decision and found serious flaws in the process that we believe warrant appeal," said Boeing Chief Jim McNerney yesterday in a press release. "This is an extraordinary step rarely taken by our company, and one we take very seriously."

"Based upon what we have seen, we continue to believe we submitted the most capable, lowest risk, lowest Most Probable Life Cycle Cost airplane as measured against the Air Force's Request for Proposal," McNerney continued. "We look forward to the GAO's review of the decision."

Boeing was greatly displeased by the U.S. Air Force's decision and goes on to state on many occasions its "75 years of unmatched experience building tankers" and how it "offered the Air Force the best value and lowest risk tanker for its mission".

Boeing was so enraged, in fact, that it issued a total of five press releases relating to the tanker contract after the final decision was handed down.

For its part, the Air Force is sticking by its decision to go with the KC-45A design. The KC-45A simply offered "more passengers, more cargo, more fuel to offload, more patients that we can carry, more availability, more flexibility and more dependability," according to Air Force Gen. Arthur Lichte.

It appears that Boeing and Northrop Grumman/EADA may be in for a lengthy deliberation process as the GAO combs over the tanker program details and the decision to select the KC-45A. It remains to be seen if the GAO will buy Boeing's argument that the Air Force required the "bare minimum" and nothing more which the U.S. aircraft giant did indeed provide compared to the KC-45A.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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