Print 117 comment(s) - last by ikkeman2.. on Jun 24 at 5:21 AM

  (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.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: That's not quite how it works...
By Manch on 6/19/2008 8:36:38 PM , Rating: 2
The only places USAF tankers park/land/deploy to are fully capable airbases or airports. These are big places.

Yeah, that's not true. There are tankers based at locations that prevent them from taking off at maximum load and therefore not fully capable as you put it. 100 ARW, RAF Mildenhall has KC-135's, standard NATO runway.

Smaller tanker as an argument is a valid point. There are many airfields that simply cannot handle large or extremely heavy aircraft. The NATO standard 8,000-foot runway
is not adequate for fully loaded KC-135s, so how do you think an even larger tanker would do? While both of the new tanker designs from Boeing and EADS have this capability, there are still several locations that even these new tankers simply cannot access. Both are designed off of civilian airframes and cannot land on under developed runways like a military purpose built aircraft ~ c-17, c-5 or a c-130. bigger isn't always better.

Instead of throwing out anymore WAGs as facts in a thinly disguised insult do some homework.

RE: That's not quite how it works...
By Manch on 6/19/2008 8:51:38 PM , Rating: 2
While both of the new tanker designs from Boeing and EADS have this capability, there are still several locations that even these new tankers simply cannot access.

Should have read:

While the new tanker design from Boeing has this capability, there are still several locations that even both of these new tankers simply cannot access.

While the NG/EADS AC significantly better than the 135's I simply do not know if they can take off in under 8k ft.

By Amiga500 on 6/20/2008 4:46:04 AM , Rating: 2
The spec called for 7,000ft.

Both aircraft meet it.

By ikkeman2 on 6/20/2008 2:53:16 AM , Rating: 2
a quick wikisearch: (only commercial base plane info was complete, field length range due to models):

707: MTOW take-off run : 8.3 - 10.8 kft
767: MTOW take-off run : 5.6 - 9.5 kft
330: MTOW take-off run : 7.3 - 8.2 kft

So either competitor can take-off from any base the 707 can get out off.

Homework is FUN!!

RE: That's not quite how it works...
By TakeoE on 6/20/2008 1:17:28 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, most of the issues related to runway support has to do with the pressure distribution (weight / # and size of contact patches with the runway), it's not a simple matter of measuring the weight. It's quite possible the A330 MRTT (the ground pressure distribution figures aren't anywhere where I can find them yet) would be able to operate from fields that a KC-767 can.

RE: That's not quite how it works...
By Manch on 6/21/2008 11:49:50 AM , Rating: 2
Weight distribution was irrelevant to my reply.

The point I was making in my reply is the USAF does base tankers at locations that limit them from taking off at max capacity. A standard NATO runway (8k ft) is not long enough for a fully loaded KC-135 to take off from.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki