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  (Source: Northrop Grumman)

Northrop Grumman/EADS KC-45A tanker  (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Boeing wins the battle, but the war continues with the controversial Air Force tanker program.

It looks like the ongoing battle between Northrop Grumman/EADS and Boeing over the $35B Air Force tanker contract will go on for at least another year. Northrop Grumman/EADS won the KC-X tanker competition earlier this year and it was announced that the Airbus A330-based KC-45 would replace the Air Force's existing fleet of 531 KC-135 tanker aircraft.

With foreign hands having a part in the design and construction of the KC-45, some in Congress weren't too happy with the move. "We should have an American tanker built by an American company with American workers. I can't believe we would create French [and British] jobs in place of Kansas jobs," said Todd Tiahrt, a congressman from Kansas.

Boeing filed a formal protest against the Air Force's decision with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in March. Boeing contended that it deserved the contract due to numerous errors and concessions made during the competition and noted that it provided "75 years of unmatched experience building tankers" and "offered the Air Force the best value and lowest risk tanker for its mission".

It looks as though Boeing has quite a bit of pull in Washington, because the GAO sided with Boeing’s protest. "Our review of the record led us to conclude that the Air Force had made a number of significant errors that could have affected the outcome of what was a close competition," said the GAO in a statement.

"We recommended that the Air Force reopen discussions ... obtain revised proposals, re-evaluate the revised proposals, and make a new source selection decision, consistent with our decision," the GAO continued.

Further stacking future proceedings in Boeing's favor, the GAO reported that the Air Force performed "unreasonable" cost/performance analysis with regards to the Northrop Grumman/EADS entry versus Boeing's competing entry. Had those errors not have been made; the GAO concluded that Boeing would have been the low-cost champion of the competition, and likely the overall winner.

The Air Force will in essence have to start the competition all over again to satisfy the GAO's requests – in the mean time; the aging KC-135 fleet will still take to the skies. "In theory, the air force has 60 days to answer. But in reality, it's obvious they're going to have to start over," said Lexington Institute military analyst Loren Thompson.

EADS, as expected, wasn't exactly elated with the GAO's decision. "Though we are disappointed, it's important to recognize that the GAO announcement is an evaluation of the selection process, not the merits of the aircraft," said EADA spokesman Louis Gallois.

"We will support our partner Northrop and remain confident that the KC-45 is the aircraft best suited to make the Air Force's critical mission requirements, as demonstrated by four previous competitive selections."

Not surprisingly, Boeing is ecstatic about the ruling. "We welcome and support today's ruling by the GAO fully sustaining the grounds of our protest," said Boeing tanker group VP Mark McGraw. "We look forward to working with the Air Force on next steps in this critical procurement for our warfighters."

Supporters of Boeing's protest in Congress also welcomed the GAO's decision. "The GAO's decision in the tanker protest reveals serious errors in the Air Force's handling of this critically important competition. We now need not only a new full, fair and open competition in compliance with the GAO recommendations, but also a thorough review of -- and accountability for -- the process that produced such a flawed result," said Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan).

"The GAO did its work, and the Air Force is going to have to go back and do its work more thoroughly," added Representative Ike Skelton (D-Missouri).

You can read the GAO's full report including seven areas in which it found the Air Force's decision to be flawed here.



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RE: That's not quite how it works...
By hlper on 6/19/2008 11:53:55 AM , Rating: 2
As long as the aircraft works I would rather have the $35+ Billion stay in the U.S. economy. Back when I did logistics for the military, there was always a preference for U.S. Suppliers, not just for sensitive technologies but everything from bombs to ballpoint pens.

If the American plane is not going to crash, I say buy it. Let the Europeans create there own jobs.


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By DASQ on 6/19/2008 12:04:01 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think the Boeing tanker would be 100% American built either way.

'Good enough' might be the key word for this project.


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By FITCamaro on 6/19/2008 12:12:48 PM , Rating: 5
Well largely I agree with you. I prefer the military to buy from American contractors. However, I believe in this case that this is a bad decision for a few reasons.

1) I believe that in reality, the EADS team was going to provide more work here in the US than the Boeing team would end up doing.

2) This program has been delayed for years. This not only affects Boeing or EADS, but also the many, many sub-contractors who have been trying to bid for pieces of the work for years, the company I work for included.

3) The outcome of the presidential election could decide whether or not this tanker gets built at all. If Obama were to win, he will slash military spending. This not being on contract could mean it might never happen. If it goes on contract now, the work is guaranteed to get done.

As I said I am all for America putting American's first. While I am involved with some stuff at work for it and find the aircraft quite capable and impressive, I'm not even that huge a fan of the F35 since it is a multi-national effort which means other countries will potentially be equal with us militarily rather than behind us. Granted we're basically just giving the majority of countries the plane but no other systems (radar, tactical systems, etc), but still.

And I also want to give our boys the best there is. If the Boeing plane truly is worse than the EADS team plane, then the EADS team deserves the contract.


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By Suomynona on 6/19/2008 1:49:53 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
If Obama were to win, he will slash military spending.


Do you have a source for this, or is it just idle speculation?


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By Ammohunt on 6/19/08, Rating: 0
RE: That's not quite how it works...
By oab on 6/19/2008 4:18:16 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
...Obama being radical leftist...

Radical leftist?

Because Obama = Vladimir Lenin or Mao Zedong.

I do sense hyperbole however, as "destroy the military completely", well ... put it this way. If Barack Obama becomes president, he won't pass a bill that completely dissolves the armed forces and sells off all military property. Shrink? Yes. Destory competely? No.

Although, if cuts are more significant than the Clinton ones, it will be significantly smaller than what it is now (up to 35%?).


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By winterspan on 6/20/08, Rating: -1
RE: That's not quite how it works...
By RjBass on 6/20/2008 10:37:28 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, I spent the majority of my active duty time in the Army under Clinton and they were the best years of my military career. When Bush got into office was when things really started going down hill really fast.


By Shining Arcanine on 6/23/2008 7:40:57 PM , Rating: 2
My uncle served in the Air Force under Carter and later under Reagan and he told me that life under Carter in the Air Force was lousy. It is the complete opposite of what you have to say. Perhaps that is because you did not have to worry about dying during the Clinton administration, because the Cold War had ended during the previous Bush administration.


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By Grast on 6/19/2008 2:04:10 PM , Rating: 3
Politics not with standing....

Every Democratic president since Jimmy Carter has cut military spending in favor of more domestic programs. I will not go into the types of programs because is does not really mater. Democratic party members have never supported funding for the military. While I do not have a source, it is common sense and a fact of history that Jimmy Carter and Clinton both cut military spending by extremely large amounts.

I did not bring up prior democratic presidents due to the party members being of a different mind set.

Regardless of politics, Obama will most likely cut military spending to pay for any number of his ADVERTISED domestic programs such as United Health Care, Social Security Reform, and Further Expanded Educational programs.

Later....


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By maverick85wd on 6/19/2008 4:52:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Regardless of politics, Obama will most likely cut military spending to pay for any number of his ADVERTISED domestic programs such as United Health Care, Social Security Reform, and Further Expanded Educational programs.


*Cringe* I pray to god you are wrong. Especially if he puts the money into united health care. I don't want my tax dollars spent on my or anyone else's health care. I will pay for it myself and expect others to do the same. TANSTAFL!


By BZDTemp on 6/20/2008 1:58:27 PM , Rating: 3
Well I hope for you that neither you or your family should ever fall on hard times and loose medical coverage then.

Living in a country where everyones medical is covered by the state, education is free (students even gets grants to live on while studying) and where the minimum wage is on par with the average wage of the US it seems to me you guys have the wrong system. We may pay a lot of tax but we can afford it and no one is dying of poverty. Heck we even make the top three every time there is a study on happiness, security, democracy, unemployment (1.8%) and even our women are beautiful :-)


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By blackened160 on 6/19/2008 10:24:49 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
While I do not have a source, it is common sense and a fact of history that Jimmy Carter and Clinton both cut military spending by extremely large amounts.


Well mislead! A quick gander at historical "facts" would show Bush Sr. cut almost as much off military spending in his term (mostly after the Gulf War) as Clinton did in his two terms. And while Carter cut spending, he actually ended his term spending more than when he started. Also remember neither president was in a war, or posturing for a war.

If we follow the historical pattern, both Obama and McCain will cut military spending, unless the US decides to invade another country.


By Ringold on 6/20/2008 3:24:58 AM , Rating: 1
Carter was very much in a war, the Cold War. In fact, Carter made it quite a bit more warm with his moralistic brow-beating.

As for H.W. Bush, the Soviet Union was collapsing. I don't know what the budget did under him exactly, so not providing cover for him, but I know a lot of Cold War era naval and air patrols ceased at some point between then and now.


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By FITCamaro on 6/19/2008 2:04:58 PM , Rating: 3
Obama has even said he will cut tens of billions in defense spending.

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.vie...


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By Ringold on 6/19/08, Rating: -1
By masher2 (blog) on 6/19/2008 3:09:52 PM , Rating: 5
> "that shows you how inexperienced that fool is, a politician never looks right in to a camera and completely reveals his true position that way."

In my opinion, that's Obama's sole redeeming quality-- he's actually quite candid and forthright in espousing many of his positions. I wish all candidates were.

However, the problem with Obama is his stated position is so incredibly wrong on nearly every issue.


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By Ringold on 6/19/2008 2:09:50 PM , Rating: 1
There was an early Democratic debate where they all essentially fell over each other agreeing on military program cuts, the contention was how much.

Unfortunately, Obama is too smart to come out and make it easy for me, as while he has an Iraq 'issue' on his site, I see no 'military' one. I reckon that's an indicator of where it ranks on his list of priorities.

It's a fairly standard liberal position that we spend too much on expensive systems like the F-22; The LA-Times ran a recent op-ed suggesting China and other likely foes have no ability to counter such systems, therefore we don't need nearly as many of the. If Obama is a standard-issue liberal, and he appears to be one, then its not exactly a huge leap to assume he would like to cut a little military funding if its politically viable. It's also the way liberals in Canada (particularly Trudeau onwards) slowly eviscerated their once-impressive military; downsizing and then closing one program after another, death by a thousand tiny cuts.

So, idle speculation on Camaro's part? Possibly, he might have a real link too, I didn't look too hard. But intelligent speculation based on his party history and what other members of his party say with regularity? Sure.

Contrasted to:
http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/054184f...

"A Strong Military in a Dangerous World"

Unlike Obama's site, there's little ambiguity there!


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By 91TTZ on 6/19/2008 5:56:01 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
It's a fairly standard liberal position that we spend too much on expensive systems like the F-22; The LA-Times ran a recent op-ed suggesting China and other likely foes have no ability to counter such systems, therefore we don't need nearly as many of them.


Isn't that the point of having advanced weaponry- to give us an advantage? It isn't our goal to evenly match our enemies, it's our goal to have a decided advantage.


By Reclaimer77 on 6/19/2008 7:36:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Do you have a source for this, or is it just idle speculation?


Was this question a joke or an attempt at satire or irony ?


By Reclaimer77 on 6/19/2008 7:37:17 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Do you have a source for this, or is it just idle speculation?


Was this question a joke or an attempt at satire or irony ?


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/19/2008 7:37:48 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Do you have a source for this, or is it just idle speculation?


Was this question a joke or an attempt at satire or irony ?


By Reclaimer77 on 6/19/2008 7:40:14 PM , Rating: 2
whoa... what the hell ?


By maverick85wd on 6/19/2008 4:47:24 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Granted we're basically just giving the majority of countries the plane but no other systems (radar, tactical systems, etc), but still.


But that's exactly the point. Without the weapons, software, or electronic warfare / radar systems, all you've got is a really fast plane. The air frames themselves don't matter nearly as much as the rest of the jet's components. Not to say other countries don't have strong avionics packages, I just don't think anyone will have ours.


By jamdunc on 6/21/2008 10:33:00 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm not even that huge a fan of the F35 since it is a multi-national effort which means other countries will potentially be equal with us militarily rather than behind us.


Well if the UK had the manpower and budget you guys have, we would be equal with you no doubt. It's only down to our smaller population and land area which is what holds us back.

Well that and the now crappy liberals we have that now seem to be flooding the government!

quote:
Granted we're basically just giving the majority of countries the plane but no other systems (radar, tactical systems, etc)


Well seeing as a lot of those systems are made by BAE Systems which is a British company, surely they can just get them from BAE. Plus BAE tend to have the better systems as well. Like the knowledge for VTOL (and SVTOL). And the majority of the US Aircraft will be using BAE Avionics in some for or another.

Pity they never get things done on time though and BAE support is usually hard to get. Or expensive and slow.


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By Ringold on 6/19/2008 1:57:13 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
As long as the aircraft works I would rather have the $35+ Billion stay in the U.S. economy.


Yep. Because that attitude has lead to fantastic growth in Western Europe.

</sarcasm>

Boeing is being given a second chance to compete. If they can't come close, they don't deserve it. In case you didn't notice, EADS will bring about as many jobs to America as the Boeing contract. Arguing about money staying "here" or "there" for Boeing and Airbus is about like arguing over cars; in neither case will appreciably more or less be manufactured "here," as they both have global supply chains.


By ikkeman2 on 6/20/2008 2:07:42 AM , Rating: 2
actually, they're getting a third chance. The first contract on this agreement was nullified because of gross corruption between Boeing and the AF - Top poeple went to jail.


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By masher2 (blog) on 6/19/2008 2:34:40 PM , Rating: 5
> "As long as the aircraft works I would rather have the $35+ Billion stay in the U.S. economy"

First of all, the Boeing proposal is only slightly "more American" than Northrop-Grummond's. Second of all, in matters of defense, you want the best capabilities you can get. Our present tankers "just work". If that's the metric we're going to use, why ever replace anything? Hell, we could save a bundle if our fighter pilots were still flying P-51 Mustangs.

The fact remains that Northrop's offering carries 50% more fuel, and does so on a platform that is cheaper and more maintainable. That translates into more fuel delivered on the spot, a critical need in a wartime situation where lives are at stake.


By 1078feba on 6/19/2008 3:40:02 PM , Rating: 4
I have to admit, I'm a little torn about the "Buy American" argument.

As a 2ndLt Air Frames Officer at the I-Level, I was in charge of making sure that a bunch of squadrons of F-18's had enough MLG shock absorbers. The supply system was in very short supply due to the number that had been deemed to far gone to fix at our level (too technically demanding), and thus had to be sent elsewhere. After months of this, I find out the reason why...

The original contract, back when the first Hornets were rolling off the assembly line, to build the MLG absorbers went to a French company. They went belly up. It then went to an Israeli firm, which was having a significant amount of trouble with the technical details within the French design specs and drawings (never understood that, but that was the reason givien). It then went to a third foreign firm, who eventually managed to meet demand. But all of this took place over a period of 18 months. I can't tell you the number of man-hours used for cannibalization of those absorbers. How ridiculously tenderly we had to treat them. And this is obviously a war-fighting machine. We use them primarily to support the grunt on the ground. Ask any grunt how wonderfull the sound of jet engines are when they are in really deep shit. And here we are, contracting, for what I surmise was probably purely political reasons, parts production of a national defense asset out to a foreign company.

How smart is that?

The logical side of me is all for laissez-faire world economics, but in some situations, I wonder if we have our priorities straight.


By Some1ne on 6/19/2008 8:48:08 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
If the American plane is not going to crash, I say buy it. Let the Europeans create there own jobs.


Wrong. For military applications, you buy the better plane. Then you tell the American company to get off its ass, and stop being so damn far behind the foreign ones that the military is reduced to buying foreign-made equipment.

Subsidizing mediocrity just breeds more mediocrity. If American companies can't keep up with their foreign counterparts in terms of performance and cost, then they don't deserve anybody's business. Not the air force's, or anybody else's for that matter.

Maybe after a few years of being strapped for cash, they'll realize that they can't rely on their status as American companies as a reliable source of income, and then they'll invest some effort in developing a superior product for once. But to subsidize a company just because it happens to be American and regardless of the fact that it creates an inferior product, is stupid. That will only breed complacency and mediocrity, and will cause the process of innovation to stagnate (why should a company bother to make the effort to do innovative things, when they know that they can suck out loud and still get business thanks to being an American company?).


By BZDTemp on 6/20/2008 1:40:14 PM , Rating: 4
Now this is just short sighted and stupid. For example I live in a EU country which is about to replace our F-16 fighters (of which some are worn out due to action in Afghanistan). With the US starting nationalistic stupidity like this it could very well be that the replacement fighters will be something other than the US ones - like say the Eurofighter made by EADS.

With the US in crisis I smell a trade war coming and I wonder if it's not like the in the long run the US economy needs the EU more than the other way round. International relations should not be hampered by a president trying to gain a little approval.

We really should work together otherwise we are essentially just helping China and Russia.


"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007














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