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Boeing hopes to start building first plane next year

There has never been as much drama generated by a military program to replace an aging aircraft fleet in history as there was with the battle over the aircraft company that would produce the USAF's replacement aerial tanker. Boeing finally won the bid in February 2011, and the company has been very tightlipped since winning the contract.
 
Boeing has now announced that it intends to start building components for the first of the Air Force KC-46A tankers this fall and hopes to begin assembling the first aircraft a year from now. Boeing KC-46A Vice President and program manager Maureen Dougherty was asked why Boeing hadn't talked much about the aircraft since winning the contract.
 
Dougherty said, "We felt, but I really felt, it was critically important to spend this year ensuring that we had a solid foundation."
 
Dougherty also noted that the budget estimates on aircraft project have not changed. The development phase of the program is expected to cost $5.1 billion, $300 million above the Defense Department's $4.8 billion contract ceiling. Dougherty continued, "We have not changed our projection. At this stage of the game, we’re performing very well to plan and we have no reason to change the projection at this time."

 
In the 16 months since winning the contract Boeing has successfully set up five different development laboratories and finalized the design of the aircraft. “We’ll be doing a lot of testing … starting in October over the course of the next couple of years before we ever get to an airplane,” Dougherty said.
 
The different labs that Boeing has set up the aircraft will develop new software and other components required to make aircraft functional. There are labs for lighting and a wet fuel lab that will perform boom work. The refueling boom that the new tanker aircraft will use is based on the boom used on the current KC-10 tanker.
 
Boeing intends to build the new tanker aircraft based on the existing 767 production line in Everett Washington and then to perform finishing work at Boeing Field in Seattle. 

Source: Air Force Times



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wait.. what??
By kattanna on 6/15/2012 11:56:48 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
Dougherty also noted that the budget estimates on aircraft project have not changed. The development phase of the program is expected to cost $5.1 billion, $300 million above the Defense Department's $4.8 billion contract ceiling . Dougherty continued, "We have not changed our projection. At this stage of the game, we’re performing very well to plan and we have no reason to change the projection at this time."


so.. they havent even started building yet and they are already $300 million over budget.. but alls well and according to plan?

LOL




RE: wait.. what??
By Gondor on 6/15/2012 12:23:10 PM , Rating: 2
How much did Airbus ask for that same contract ? I take it was even more expensive, given that they lost (any patriotic favorism aside).


RE: wait.. what??
By fredgiblet on 6/15/2012 6:37:55 PM , Rating: 3
Not just about money. The design that Airbus wanted to give us was not consistent with our needs IIRC.


RE: wait.. what??
By Initium on 6/16/2012 5:09:17 AM , Rating: 2
Are you kidding? Airbus won the contract. Seems awfully naive to think the Pentagon would award the contract to them if they didn't give them exactly what they wanted, doesn't it? Or perhaps you think the Pentagon doesn't really know what it is doing. Airbus was prevented from fulfilling the contract because Boeing took the case to court. Don't you people know anything about contract tendering? Airbus would have to meet the budget set by the Department of Defense. They won the contract and Boeing make such a song and dance about it we could liken them to Apple and Smartphones. Seems like typical American business practice nowadays. If you cannot win on merit take it to court. Actually, court action over merit is a sign of weakness and decline. Shame about that really.


RE: wait.. what??
By Warwulf on 6/16/2012 2:42:59 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, the contract was rebid a few times because each company bitched when it lost. IIRC, Boeing won first because it's design met all the optional criteria while the Airbus just met the basics. EADS complained that the bonus criteria were used. It was rebid, Airbus then won. Boeing complained. Rebid. Boeing won, and Airbus stopped whining.

In the end, the better design one. Boeing gave the military everything they needed or wanted in a tanker. Not to mention, IMHO, the design of the sidestick and autothrottle is extremely dangerous (lack of visual/tactile feedback) and has already significantly contributed to a significant loss of life -- remember Air France?

The argument on American jobs was a moot point, as the contractor doing the building in the US would have been Northrup Grumman.


RE: wait.. what??
By karielash on 6/19/2012 1:23:47 PM , Rating: 2
Actually the first one Airbus never took part in. Boeing was the ONLY bidder and the bid was reviewed and thrown out because the lease plan was a meal ticket for Boeing and a something up the rear for the Taxpayer (suprise suprise).

After Darleen Druyun ADMITTED to and served time for criminal wrongdoing the CFO and CEO were terminated and Boeing were fined $615 Million the lease contract was officially cancelled by the Pentagon.

The contract was then officially offered up for bidding again.


RE: wait.. what??
By Sahrin on 6/15/2012 8:22:09 PM , Rating: 2
Not more expensive, less. For a smaller tanker to boot. The main reason given was the efficiency and TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) - currently the KC-135 fleet usually returns from a given mission with at least half its fuel, meaning it is carrying a lot more fuel than is necessary, and therefore consuming more fuel itself than is necessary. By using a significantly smaller tanker, the military saves money (versus a larger tanker, that is more flexible and can support larger missions). Maybe only load the planes half full to make up the difference?

The reasoning is sound, but it still felt really dumb to shoot down an Airbus proposal that carried more fuel, had larger passenger area, more cargo pallet space etc...all for less money up front.


RE: wait.. what??
By BZDTemp on 6/17/2012 7:12:58 AM , Rating: 3
Not to mention that Airbus would have been in full production for some time now.


RE: wait.. what??
By Keeir on 6/15/2012 4:44:44 PM , Rating: 2
Reading Comprehension.

quote:
The development phase of the program is expected to cost $5.1 billion, $300 million above the Defense Department's $4.8 billion contract ceiling


This is the fixed cost associated with designing a tanker to the US government's specifications. This has to be nearly done before you can begin building the actual airframes.

quote:
Dougherty continued, "We have not changed our projection. At this stage of the game, we’re performing very well to plan and we have no reason to change the projection at this time."


While I don't know the details, I imagine that Boeing is ~50% through the total development phase and say they are hitting the milestones at the correct times and at the predicted values from months and months ago (this is not new news. Boeing reports more than 6 months ago they expect to be above the contract ceiling)

Lastly, typically contract ceiling means that the Defense Department is going to pay 4.8 billion, regardless of cost overruns. Boeing (I believe) will be footing the 300 million dollar overrun on the development contract.


RE: wait.. what??
By corduroygt on 6/15/2012 5:03:12 PM , Rating: 1
Why does Boeing need 3 years and 5 billion dollars to develop an aircraft that already exists as the KC-767 and is currently OPERATIONAL with the Japanese and Italian air forces?


RE: wait.. what??
By Ringold on 6/15/2012 5:17:31 PM , Rating: 1
I've disagreed with you a lot before, but thats exactly what I thought. Capitalism isn't the problem, crony capitalism is, and "government waste and abuse" isn't limited to fancy trips to Vegas for conventions.. Everything wrong with government is on display right here.


RE: wait.. what??
By Sahrin on 6/15/2012 8:23:36 PM , Rating: 2
Wait...so Boeing charges the taxpayer $4.1B to 'develop' an airplane they already have, and that's the government's fault? What should they do, *force* Boeing to not charge them the development cost?


RE: wait.. what??
By Solandri on 6/17/2012 12:28:24 PM , Rating: 2
You're shopping at Walmart and see something you like on the shelf.

A) You tell Walmart you'd like to buy 100 of them. Walmart tells you they'll have to charge you an extra fee. That's Walmart's fault.

B) You tell Walmart you'd like to buy 100 of them, but they need to be modified for your particular use. Walmart tells you they'll have to charge you an extra fee. That's your fault.

If the government were shopping as in case (A), there wouldn't have been any bidding. They would've looked at the Boeing and Airbus airframes out there, decided which one they liked better, and just placed an order like the airlines do. That's how you "force" Boeing not to charge any development costs.


RE: wait.. what??
By Keeir on 6/15/2012 7:06:21 PM , Rating: 3
Sadly, the US military doesn't want the Italian and Japanese tankers.

The same thing would have been true for the A330MRTT. US would want a different configuration than the British and Australians. This would have cost a few billion to modify. (The A330MRTT in the form already paid for by the British and Australians would have been much closer and required less development costs. Lifecycle costs were/are significantly higher when the order gets above ~100 airframes though according to the defense department)

Based on the ~1.6 ratio scores both the B767 and A330 tankers got scored versus the current KC-135, to maintain the same tanker capacity, the US military would need ~500 airplanes. (There are ~800 KC-135 tankers).

5 billion works out to be ~10 million in fixed design costs for the military attachments per aircraft. Total flyaway prices will be in the range of 100-200 million dollars per airframe. Unique development costs then would be 5-10% of the total.

Not really seeing this as a huge developmental contract. Its a very small slice of the potential total cost (Operating a fleet of ~500 tankers will be in the range of 300 billion over 50 years)


RE: wait.. what??
By knutjb on 6/15/2012 11:13:23 PM , Rating: 2
The Italians and Japanese have different needs. Tankers are not a simple pick up truck.

Your numbers are a bit high on the 135s. 732 were built as tankers. The early 57 and earlier jets were retired some years ago. Not all were converted to R/T models. So your overall numbers are way off. The new jet is a mix of 767 parts, different wing/body/avionics/engine/refueling combos which have to be certified as a new version.


RE: wait.. what??
By inperfectdarkness on 6/16/2012 4:12:06 AM , Rating: 2
you're completely overlooking the fact that the rest of the world uses probe & drogue--while the USAF uses boom. there's a substantial advantage for boom refueling operations, not the least of which is the ability to cycle jets to the tanker faster--which allows for greater mission flexibility.


RE: wait.. what??
By CubicleDilbert on 6/20/2012 2:50:10 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, but the Airbus tanker has both!

It was a political decision for the Air Force to use American built equipment and Boeing lobbied heavily for it in Washington. Who cares.

But Europeans are now more focusing on buying European equipment, instead of all the US fighter jets and so.

Btw. the US tanker is only on a drawing board now,based on a 25-year old 767 model, while the Airbus tanker is a modern state-of-the-art plane and already being delivered to various countries now.


we need a tanker
By 195 on 6/15/2012 12:11:11 PM , Rating: 2
My brother's job in the air force is to keep the current generation running and let me tell you, they need to be replaced. Costs aside, we're currently flying around in 50-60 year old planes loaded with fuel. They are hunks of junk and are actually really scary to fly. No commercial passenger jet in the US is even close to being as old as some of these things. Last week the one he was in had one of its rear landing gears blow out and ripped holes in the side of the plane.
If you can design and build a jet for under $5 billion in the US, let me know how and I'll write a letter to the government for you. We could always have China build it for half the cost if that would make you feel better.




RE: we need a tanker
By ilt24 on 6/15/2012 2:15:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If you can design and build a jet for under $5 billion in the US, let me know how and I'll write a letter to the government for you


I think this first phase is to design (re-design the 767 for a new purpose), set up the manufacturing line and deliver something like 20 planes. Then they Air Force plans to order another 160 or so for something like $30B.


RE: we need a tanker
By AEvangel on 6/15/2012 3:42:12 PM , Rating: 1
You want the tanker...then how about we close down half the useless overseas military bases and used the money saved from that to build you a couple and yes I would like them built by China for half the price.

Specially when considering this whole fiasco took so long because Boeing was caught bribing officials and should NOT have been able to bid on the contact in the first place.


RE: we need a tanker
By Keeir on 6/15/2012 4:51:08 PM , Rating: 2
<Sigh>

The Tanker contract would run for years and years and years if they eventually order ~160 planes to replace ~500 KC-135s currently used. Over a reasonable length of time the KC-46 will be an actual -cost- savings for the defense department based on the number and condition of the KC-135s they can turn into scrap. While the 767 is no 787, it -light years- better than the KC-135 for specific fuel burn.

China doesn't have the capacity to build tankers currently. The cost of setting up a factory (let alone designing from scratch an airframe) would likely be in the several billion dollar range. Then add in the head-ache of ensure that the military information doesn't get leaked to China....

quote:
Specially when considering this whole fiasco took so long because Boeing was caught bribing officials and should NOT have been able to bid on the contact in the first place.


There are only two airframers with airframes that can be converted easily to tanker usage. Boeing and Airbus. If you forbid Boeing from bidding, you either have only Airbus bidding, or a middle-man who takes a Boeing plane and converts it to tanker duty.

Neither of these situations are desirable I think for the taxpayer.


RE: we need a tanker
By Sahrin on 6/15/2012 8:26:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There are only two airframers with airframes that can be converted easily to tanker usage. Boeing and Airbus. If you forbid Boeing from bidding, you either have only Airbus bidding, or a middle-man who takes a Boeing plane and converts it to tanker duty.


For clarity, this is exactly the approach Airbus took, and they beat Boeing on price (ie their bid was lower than Boeing's).


RE: we need a tanker
By knutjb on 6/15/2012 11:22:43 PM , Rating: 3
Cost on it's own as a measurement is irelavant. If the aircraft isn't capable of doing the job efficiently it is of little use. The Airbus in question is less than a foot in lenght and width of a KC-10 yet carries 1/3 of the KC-10. Smaller 135 like jets have been shown to be far more efficient in the real world than their larger cousins. If the bigger jets were more efficient we would have bought the 777s Boeing had in mind at first.

The contracting snafu responsablity resided more so in the DoD than with Boeing. I don't have enough time or space to re-hash it.


RE: we need a tanker
By inperfectdarkness on 6/16/2012 4:18:22 AM , Rating: 2
1. china would intentionally undermine the project and we would be left holding the bag on a shoddy project prone to fail (intentionally) at the worst possible time.

2. force projection requires overseas basing--unless you only intend to "force project" within about 100 nautical miles of international waters. the navy doesn't have the legs to reach out and drop bombs in afghanistan unless they've based their planes on land.

i could go on, but judging by the content of your post--logic isn't an idea you're open to.


RE: we need a tanker
By Reclaimer77 on 6/16/2012 5:21:11 PM , Rating: 1
Was this even a serious post??


RE: we need a tanker
By Ringold on 6/15/2012 5:25:52 PM , Rating: 2
In the civilian world the only reason old models don't keep flying is the efficiency and features of newer ones. But in some niche markets, there's a lot of old Cessna 152's and 172s that have been the backbone of general aviation now for around 60 years. Absolutely nothing wrong with well-maintained earlier models, either; I considered buying a share in a 172 at one point a few years back, I think a 172K model from 1969. It had been very well maintained, despite a bajillion hours on the airframe. The GA fleets safety record with older planes is fine as well; the FAA doesn't hesitate to require fixes as issues come to light.

As long as they're doing proper maintenance they should be fine.. Asides from, like I said, efficiency and capabilities afforded by modern design.


RE: we need a tanker
By Keeir on 6/15/2012 7:54:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
In the civilian world the only reason old models don't keep flying is the efficiency and features of newer ones.


quote:
As long as they're doing proper maintenance they should be fine.. Asides from, like I said, efficiency and capabilities afforded by modern design.


http://www.avweb.com/avwebflash/news/FAAAdoptsFati...

No. In the civilian world, FAA requirements for inspections and the resulting maintaince costs will be the primary reason aircraft models are retired.

Despite a general shortage of some range aircraft, there are many aircraft littering deserts across the world.

A better statement is,

In the Civilian world, Engineers spend many hundreds of thousands of hours deciding the appropriate length of time of usage (in flight hours and flight cycles) for thresholds for increased maintainence leading to economically unviable costs. The KC-135 fleet (older planes at least) are well past the original design goals. While, with proper -escalated- maintainence, flight and mission safety will be maintained, its still without doubt they are well outside of thier warranty period. For example, the contemporary 707 airliner now has a very limited number in service, most being Presidential planes for borderline countries whoose leaders demand "Jet" travel.

Unlike plastic planes, 707 are made of metal. This metal -does- corrode and become fatigued. And there -is- a limit on repair until you start replacing ever larger segments of the airframe. While I don't think the Airforce has reached that limit with the current KC-135, there is a reason the airforce has already parked ~200+ KC-135 type planes.


Why is it so expensive?
By corduroygt on 6/15/2012 12:29:51 PM , Rating: 4
The plane is based on the 767 and the boom is based on an existing design? Why is this process so lengthy and so expensive?




RE: Why is it so expensive?
By FlyingMonkey38 on 6/15/2012 1:12:04 PM , Rating: 2
Because it's built in America. We like our "quality" living style (cough... lazy)and bureaucracy. While other countries and their people are willing to work and study harder to get ahead. In my opinion, we're way too comfortable and think that America will always be ahead.


RE: Why is it so expensive?
By knutjb on 6/15/2012 11:28:42 PM , Rating: 1
You're an moron. You don't build a taker by slapping a boom on any ol jet coming off the production line. This tanker is made from a combination of parts that have never been flown together so the FAA requires a complete new aircraft certification. That takes time and money, all of which built into the cost.


RE: Why is it so expensive?
By Bad-Karma on 6/16/2012 6:17:48 AM , Rating: 2
I really hate to burst your bubble on this but the FAA doesn't certify DoD aircraft. We have many that have been modified or reconfigured that would make it well outside the FAA's level of acceptability. AC-130, EC-130H, AWACS, RJ-135(s), EC135.......

The FAA has no bearing on DoD Aircraft.


RE: Why is it so expensive?
By knutjb on 6/18/2012 5:14:25 PM , Rating: 2
The FAA DOES certify new aircraft for flight and will certify this jet according to a friend at Boeing who was involved with the program. This jet is not an off the shelf product. The FAA does not consider it a modification but a new version. 200 airframe, 400 wings, glass cockpit, plus a few other things. That combination was never produced for the commercial market.

The FAA doesn't always certify DOD modifications. The FAA can impact the DOD. When they changed the distance beteween floors from 1000ft to 500ft 135s required new avionics precise enough to meet those rules or they would have been grounded. I worked them at the time. So to say:
quote:
The FAA has no bearing on DoD Aircraft.
is not entirely correct.


RE: Why is it so expensive?
By Bad-Karma on 6/19/2012 12:21:15 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
according to a friend at Boeing who was involved with the program.


So he is a chief design engineer, or avionics specialist, maybe he is a riveter or even a sheet metal worker, perhaps he runs the lunch cart.....a little vague aren't we?

If Boeing is seeking to sell the conglomerated airframe that the USAF has spec'd out to commercial or private interests then yes, Boeing would want to seek out FAA approval before sales could be pursued. But again, the DoD could care less.

And no the 135s would not have been grounded. The USAF could have simply written their own waiver and ignored the FAA's requirement, which we do all the time. However, if a feature is seen as a benefit to the the tanker's ability (and it is funded by congress)then the purchase and installation will be given the go-ahead.


RE: Why is it so expensive?
By Keeir on 6/19/2012 11:15:59 AM , Rating: 2
Your both right.

DoD certification can either be completely independent OR a supplement of FAA certification

In the case of the 767 Tanker, a faster route is to declare a minor model in FAA space and supplement this with a DoD certification for the unique defense items.

This will make the tanker somewhat beholden to the FAA in that the tanker would need to comply with FAA mandated changes without additional paperwork from the DoD.

If I am not mistaken, in this particular case the DoD wanted a FAA certified base model. It significantly lessens the DoD work statement and probably lowers overall cost and risk. It doesn't have to be this way however, but thus is the chosen way forward as far as I know


RE: Why is it so expensive?
By Adonlude on 6/20/2012 4:47:29 PM , Rating: 2
I'm an electrical engineer in the process of designing power modules to power the inertial measurement units in each of this aircrafts wings. Im having to meet some pretty stringent requirements that I am not used to from a private specification company called RCTA. Spec is DO-160. I'm told the requirement to meet stricter FAA regulation is driving this requirement.


Fuel Tanker
By ricster777 on 6/15/2012 2:19:08 PM , Rating: 4
I grew up the son of parents that worked at Boeing. I served as a navigator aboard C130's in the Marine Corps and am sure that we need these Tankers ASAP. Boeing has built the best aircraft in this weight category for years and presently it would simply have been against the grain of the public to have awarded this contract beyond our borders. We can easily spend the time necessary to design and build a safe fleet of tankers that will serve our needs while providing the maximum number of jobs for our children and existing aerospace workers in this effort.




RE: Fuel Tanker
By ShieTar on 6/17/2012 10:54:37 PM , Rating: 2
What the public fails to see though is that it would be a catastrophy if on those kinds of projects only the national competitor would be asked to bid. In the case of this tanker, Boeing would have known they have no realistic competition within the US, and would have gone to maximize their own profits in their bid, like any big company will. The offer might easily have ended up at 8-10 billion, with all the experienced Boeing managers and engineers telling the customer that the 4.8b target was totally unrealistic.

By allowing EADS/Airbus to join the bidding, the customer made clear that they would not allow Boeing to dictate the conditions of the contract. Everybody in the business expected the current outcome, that Boeing would get the contract in the end and that the Airbus proposal would merely be a tool for the customer to put pressure on Boeing to force them towards a competative proposal. Nevermind Boeing and Airbus going to court, the real "magic" happened behind the scenes with the customer explaining to Boeing why they had "lost" the bid and what exactly would have to change for their re-bid for them to win.

Quiet frankly, EADS may have written a rather optimistic proposal in the safe knowledge they never would have to actually build it. And they got a lot of positive publicity for their money.


You all paid about $20 each for this
By tayb on 6/15/12, Rating: -1
By TerranMagistrate on 6/15/2012 4:44:19 PM , Rating: 3
That is $20 well spent. The current fleet of USAF tankers belong in a scrap heap or the Smithsonian.


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