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The Air Force tanker drama continues...

The ongoing saga between Northrop Grumman/EADS, Boeing, the Air Force, Congress, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) continues to languish on in the face of an aging tanker fleet. Northrop Grumman/EADS formally won the contract earlier this year -- the $35B contract would have given the Air Force 179 Airbus A330-based KC-45 aircraft to replace 531 KC-135 tankers.

Boeing filed an official protest of the deal with the GAO in early March and received redemption in mid-June when the GAO agreed that errors were made during the selection process. "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," said the GAO at the time.

It now appears that Boeing isn't quite satisfied with just having the competition reopened -- according to the Wall Street Journal, it now wants more time to design a suitable aircraft to meet the Air Force's needs or it is threatening to walk away from the competition altogether. Boeing now wants an additional six months to submit a proper bid that the Air Force would be willing to accept.

"I think the option we would have if we were not given the six months, there is a really high likelihood that we would no-bid the program," said Boeing defense unit head Jim Albaugh.

The Defense Department is already considering giving both Northrop Grumman/EADS and Boeing two additional months to submit new bids for the competition according to close sources, but Boeing's Albaugh said that is not enough. "This is an airplane that's going to be in the inventory 40 years. What we're asking for is an additional four months to have a meaningful competition."

For Boeing, the request for more time and the threat of a "no-bid" is somewhat of a payback to Northrop Grumman/EADS which performed a similar feat back in 2007. The maneuvering by Northrop Grumman/EADS forced the Air Force to make some changes to the requirements for the competition that put Boeing's entry at a disadvantage.

Boeing's current proposal is based around a 767-200 airframe -- it is simply too small and doesn't meet the fuel capacity requirements of the Air Force. Albaugh acknowledges that without the extra time to bid a larger version of the 767-200, it will lose the contract.



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RE: This is getting ridiculous...
By masher2 (blog) on 8/22/2008 12:48:46 PM , Rating: 3
> "I am not convinced that anything as complex as an airplane is 100% from one country. Anybody knows more about that? "

In truth, the Boeing proposal is only slightly more 'American' than the Northrup Grummond bid.

Still, there does appear to be at least a small amount of meat in their contention that the bid process was not conducted fairly, and that the USAF changed requirements details after they submitted their proposal. I personally have no problem with a four-month delay in this very expensive project, if it means a potentially better solution for all.

Personally, I think EADS will probably still win out, but it doesn't hurt to address Boeing's concerns.


RE: This is getting ridiculous...
By karielash on 8/22/2008 4:00:43 PM , Rating: 2
The problem that I see is Boeing made their bed and now they do not like it. They took it for granted with their first proposal that they were an 'automatic' win, when they failed to win they started screaming, not to mention several Boeing/Air Force personnel ending up in jail over some dubious contract behaviour.

I agree from the report that the requirements changed, but Boeing did not care the first time round because they could not lose, now they need time to prepare what they should have presented first time around. Even if Boeing do end up winning I hope the process has taught US defense contractors that the auto win button is no longer in the game, it might make them a little more prepared to deal reasonably and present adequate systems the first time round.

We would all benefit from that.


RE: This is getting ridiculous...
By mindless1 on 8/22/2008 5:12:54 PM , Rating: 3
No, it is false that they should have presented something else the first time around. That is the whole point of these "requirements" you so quickly dismiss. The competition was to build what the Air Force asked for, not something more or different than that.

They definitely showed they "cared" (whatever that is supposed to mean) by bother to bid at all. There can't be some presumption there is an "auto win" button when they already DIDN'T auto-win. The only lessons that need taught are not to rush into the process, either by coming up with specs before the AF knew what they really wanted, and not by selecting a winning bid based on something other than the rules of the contest. Anything else would be madness.


RE: This is getting ridiculous...
By karielash on 8/23/08, Rating: 0
RE: This is getting ridiculous...
By mindless1 on 8/24/2008 1:37:56 AM , Rating: 3
How easily you avoid the central issue. That issue is a finalized, non-changing, engineering spec against which both companies design their best alternative as a bid.

There's really no other BS that matters, it's as simple as thing. When the AF changed their minds they should have immediately issued a revision and given both companies the sufficient amount of time to redirect their efforts towards the new specifications.


RE: This is getting ridiculous...
By Calin on 8/24/2008 3:39:50 AM , Rating: 2
The issue was a changing engineering spec.
Or that's what it seems to be, at least for me - while the tanker capabilities were required first, extra requirements were later added (oh, we have this big plane? Why won't we use it for cargo transportation, if we don't need it for fuel? What about medical evacuation? What about troop transport? What about this? What about that?).
While they are right to request multiple roles (air tankers are needed plenty at some times, and none at other times, and can easily fly other types of missions during pauses in fueling needs), the final tally took into account things not specified in initial requirements (those for a TANKER)


RE: This is getting ridiculous...
By ikkeman2 on 8/25/2008 7:23:24 AM , Rating: 2
the RFP specifically stated the multirole aspect would be considered, and considered important.

The problem is that the RFP was written by Boeing based on beating the kc-135 with the kc-767AT.
The NG/EADS kc-30 beats the kc-767AT in every aspect, unless you include not beeing bigger than the kc-135


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