the U.S. government opens bids and proposals on a large defense
contract, drama often follows. Such has been the case with the long
and drawn out saga of finding a replacement for the fleet of Air
Force KC-135 tanker aircraft that are tasked with refueling all
manner of military aircraft.Many thought a winner was chosen
and the program was set to move on in March of 2008 when the Air
the contract to Northrop Grumman/EADS. That win was short lived
when the other bidder in the competition -- Boeing -- filed a formal
protest over the win by EADS with Boeing citing serious
flaws in the process of awarding the win to Northrop Grumman/EADS.
The win was overthrown and bidding set to resume.Northrop
Grumman/EADS threatened in late 2009 to boycott
the competition if changes to the program weren't made to
better suit its needs. The issue for Northrop Grumman/EADS was that
changes made to the program made the firm's proposed Airbus
A330-based KC-45A aircraft financially unsuitable for the company.
The main complaint is that the changes favor a smaller and cheaper
aircraft, such as the one Boeing is proposing.Al.com reports
that the Pentagon has now released
the new RFP guidelines for the aerial refueling tanker and
reopened bidding on the defense deal worth about $40 billion. With
Northrop Grumman/EADS threatening to pull out of the bidding process
if concession aren’t made, the whole saga could ultimately boil
down to a single horse race with Boeing the uncontested
winner.Northrop maintains that the Air Force has only made
cosmetic changes to the RFP released last fall, and that the RFP is
so biased towards the Boeing KC-767 that it makes no sense to submit
a bid for the contract. Northrop had planned to build the aircraft in
Alabama if it won the contract and has Alabama Senator Richard Shelby
on its side.Shelby said, "The final RFP discredits the
integrity of the entire process. It is an illusion of a fair
competition in which the warfighter and the taxpayer lose."Aviation
to the RFP include a new pricing structure that allows for
fixed pricing on lots one and two of the tanker order and allows
adjustments for inflation on lots three to 13 of the order. Also
changed is that the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures suite
will be provided by the government rather than provided by the
aircraft builder at their cost. The RFP also removed the requirement
for a microwave landing system to help with night and bad weather
landings. Other changes were also made to the RFP.Senator
Shelby (R-Alabama) says, "Additional capabilities that would
better protect the lives of our men and women in uniform were
neglected in the draft RFP. Substantial changes that bring those
factors into consideration in the final RFP are necessary to have a
full and transparent competition, yet the Air Force did not make a
single revision to the key warfighter requirements."The
Pentagon is prepared to continue the bidding process even if Northrop
drops out of the competition. Another option still being considered
is buying aircraft from both companies.
quote: As usual, the military is getting screwed by this Administration
quote: ( not sure where you get your info on that one)
quote: They want the airforce to change its RFP so they can compete. wtf is up with that?
quote: #1. The USAF wants beater machines that are well understood
quote: #2. The USAF wants cheap planes
quote: #3. New designs typically focus on reducing per air-mile costs for airlines. Military applications are often dramatically different. A military plane might fly 1/10 or less the flight hours/cycles of a commerical plane. This results in extra costs upfront in the airframe that the military might never realize through flight service.
quote: False, the KC-135 was from the BRAND NEW first American built JET powered aircraft. In fact it was so new that the AF tanker version was built off the prototype 707 and is smaller than what became the 707.
quote: Per mile costs do impact fuel costs, military or civilian.
quote: The KC-135R flys an annual average of 710 hours. A typical 777 currently flys ~12+ hours a day, every day. Thats 4300 or so hours a year.
quote: The difference in fuel costs for a 777 on a yearly basis is factor of 6.
quote: It is -very- unlikely for the Air Force to want to pay for a Bigger than Required, More Expensive, More Expensive to Maintain platform when they are unlikely to achieve the benefits of the extra costs through reduces per mile per kilo costs.