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Boeing NewGen tanker

EADS tanker

Because sometimes one facepalm isn't enough.
Letters sent to the wrong companies by mistake

The long running contest to find a replacement for the Air Force's fleet of tanker aircraft used to refuel aircraft has hit another snag. The latest gaffe happened in the bidding contest that has resulted in each of the participating bidders inadvertently being sent information on the competitors offering by the Air Force.

The Air Force accidentally sent letters to Boeing and EADS that were meant to go to the other company. The letters each company received were the Integrated fleet Aerial Refueling Assessments (IFARA) the Air Force prepared on the bidding aircraft.

Air Force spokesman Col. Les Kodlick said, "Earlier this month, there was a clerical error that resulted in limited amounts of identical source-selection information being provided to both KC-X offerors concerning their competitor's offer. Both offerors immediately recognized the error and contacted the Air Force contracting officers."

The IFARA letter is something that the Air Force prepares that outlines scenarios to determine how many of the tankers will be needed. The assessment takes into consideration fuel and construction costs reports Defense News. The IFARA is considered the biggest risk factor in the tanker bidding program.

The Air Force says that the error will not delay the bidding process and that it is taking action to ensure than an error like this is not repeated. Both Boeing and EADS offered no official comment on the errors. Executives from both aircraft companies did say that in a situation like that the only ethical thing to do was to not review the documents.

Defense News quotes on unnamed exec stating, "That kind of stuff can easily be tracked, so everyone knows you don't mess around."

Kodlick said, "The KC-X source selection will continue. This incident will not impact our schedule for source selection. However, certain aspects of the source selection have taken slightly longer than originally anticipated, and we currently expect the award to occur early next year."

It's still not clear if the error will affect the contest, despite the Air Force saying the process will not be delayed. However, if the Air Force requests another bid from the companies, the error could affect the process according to some familiar with the situation.

"We have to see whether the exchange of the data affects the competition, especially if the next round will be the best-and-final bids. Then it might be of some value to have the other person's information," said Jacques Gansler, a former Pentagon acquisition chief who teaches public policy at the University of Maryland.

This is the latest issue in the problem prone bidding process. Boeing submitted its NewGen tanker proposal to the Air Force in July 2010. EADS came back to the bidding process with a new U.S. partner in June 2010 after dropping out when Northrop-Grumman pulled out of the bidding war.

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RE: Look, this is utterly ludicrous
By gamerk2 on 11/22/2010 11:33:12 AM , Rating: 2
EADS has a plane that is ready to go. Heaven forbid, they already TESTED the design and demonstrated mid-air refueling.

RE: Look, this is utterly ludicrous
By DougF on 11/22/2010 11:56:51 AM , Rating: 4
We just won't talk about the size issue, will we? As someone who has participated in "fighter drags" with tankers, it works better with smaller tankers. Larger tankers work great with larger receivers like cargo aircraft, bombers, etc. Smaller tankers, and greater numbers, provide the flexibility the fighter world needs to get planes from place to place. Cycling fighters off of a larger tanker, while technically more efficient, can easily wear out the refueling crew and creates a single failure point issue, as well as limiting the ability for tanker support to drag a fighter with an IFE (in-flight emergency) to an alternate landing site. Smaller tankers can also fit more easily into crowded air bases and more airfields as well. Lastly, I'm trying to remember just how many years EADS has in air-refueling experience compared to Boeing's. It's a fairly small fraction, as I recall. Personally, think the AF should by a mix to get the best of both worlds with some common elements (like booms, probes, baskets, etc), but that may ratchet up the price per aircraft costs beyond acceptable limits.

RE: Look, this is utterly ludicrous
By marvdmartian on 11/22/2010 3:28:08 PM , Rating: 3
Seriously, how difficult would it be, to buy some of each??

I laughed when I read this line:
Executives from both aircraft companies did say that in a situation like that the only ethical thing to do was to not review the documents.

Yeah, I'm sure they were entirely ethical, and only copied the documents.....which they would ethically have no problem reading, as they're copies. sheesh!!

RE: Look, this is utterly ludicrous
By Danish1 on 11/23/2010 1:46:55 AM , Rating: 2
Corporate executives + ethics does not compute.

RE: Look, this is utterly ludicrous
By HrilL on 11/22/2010 12:29:45 PM , Rating: 2
Who cares. The plane is too big and because of that it has a very limited number of places it can land and take off. This forces the Air Force to have to fly it longer and thus costing more to do the same job. Boeing has the better plane because it can fill more rolls.

RE: Look, this is utterly ludicrous
By Nfarce on 11/22/2010 3:37:56 PM , Rating: 2
So what? The USAF needs to spend money on American equipment. I have no problem - and support it actually - with American airline companies buying Airbus. Boeing shouldn't have the monopoly on large airliners post McDonald-Douglas (DC-10, MD-11) and Lockheed manufacturing (L-1011) - most of which have long since been scrapped or are in boneyards awaiting their deaths. But the USAF has about as much validity buying an Airbus for a tanker as they do a Eurofighter Typhoon for a fighter.

RE: Look, this is utterly ludicrous
By cjc1103 on 11/23/2010 8:40:29 AM , Rating: 1
This is a common misconception, because Boeing is an American company, then the planes its builds are US made. Likewise since Airbus is a European consortium, its planes are not US made. In reality airplane manufacturing is a global business these days, Boeing sources components for their 787 aircraft from all over the world, the final assembly takes place in the US. Airbus does the same. For the KC-X competition, the majority of the plane has to be built in the US, so EADS/Airbus plans to build a factory in the US to assemble the aircraft. The fuselage sections will still be made in Europe, but they will be shipped over here for assembly. They will also have to use US subcontractors to supply parts so that the aircraft is more than 50% built in the US. The problem is the subsidies that Airbus gets from the EU to run their business, which could put Boeing at a disadvantage. The larger issue is: the Boeing and Airbus offerings are different aircraft, the Airbus KC-45 is about half again as big as the Boeing KC-767, and costs more. Depending on what missions the Air Force has are what drives the selection. for some missions, the bigger aircraft is more cost effective, in others the smaller aircraft is more cost effective. For some missions like fighter drags, using two smaller tankers would be better than one bigger one. If you need two tankers for redundacy for an important mmission, the bigger tanker will burn more fuel. However on a long mission the bigger tanker may be able to do the mission wheresa it would require two smaller tankers to do the same thing. The bigger aircraft would also be able to carry more cargo. Visit the websites of each manufacturer and you will see a lot of half truths and plain FUD, trying to make their aircraft look better. No matter which aircraft is selected, the loser company will bitch and complain. The KC-45 already won a couple of years ago, then Boeing sued to overturn the bid, and it went back to square one. Give me a break. Maybe we should buy some of each, to better cover different types of missions, but it will undoubtedly cost more to maintain two platforms.

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