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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 mindless1 on 8/22/2008 5:04:27 PM , Rating: 2
This is puzzling. Boeing should lose for building closer to what the Air Force spec'd? Methink you have that backwards. What happened was the Air Force changed their minds about what they wanted and the competitors should not be penalized for that. Both companies still have the same time and option to make changes if there is an extension granted, so they can both design towards the new target.


RE: This is getting ridiculous...
By FITCamaro on 8/22/2008 5:16:02 PM , Rating: 2
The Air Force didn't change their minds. EADs said, "Change the contract or we walk away". It was done and it gave EADs an advantage.


RE: This is getting ridiculous...
By GGT on 8/22/2008 5:36:15 PM , Rating: 2
And now that "advantage" is being magnified by yet further changes that have appeared in the new draft RFP that the Air Force has now released. Basically, they are now putting on paper the secret rules they used before to hand the contract to EADS. Why should Boeing jump to bid on a job they are sure to lose with time constraints and requirements deliberately algined against them?


RE: This is getting ridiculous...
By mindless1 on 8/22/2008 10:32:10 PM , Rating: 2
Changing the contract WAS essentially changing their minds. I feel bad for Boeing, but that doesn't mean they should get the contract if they can't come up with a better design given the time needed. IMO it's worth the wait to see, 40 years is a long time.


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