“White Paper” rips Tanker Award

A labor union of technical engineers issued an 11-page “white paper” today ripping the USAF tanker contract award to Northrop Grumman and the KC-30 over the Boeing KC-767. The two page press release summarizes the white paper findings.

The press release focuses entirely on EADS, parent of Airbus and maker of the A330-200 on which Northrop’s offering of the KC-30 is based. Northrop’s identified as a “minority” partner.

(During a conference several months ago, Northrop acknowledged that about 50% of the contract revenues flow to EADs/Airbus. Engines, in this case provided by GE (an American company), typically represent about 20% of the cost of a commercial airliner. This clearly makes Northrop a “minority partner.” But it’s important that although 50% of the revenues may flow to EADS/Airbus, payments to suppliers to EADS/Airbus also flow back to suppliers, with more than 200 based in the US. Northrop says that about 60% of the KC-30 by value is US-sourced.)

The White Paper is replete with errors and misrepresentations and cites “facts” without sourcing them.

  • It claims the KC-30 isn’t as structurally as sound as the KC-767 without backing this claim up.
  • It states (accurately) that currently only 1% of all cargo carried by the Air Mobility Command is carried by tankers but ignores statements and conclusions by the Air Force that a new way of carrying troops and cargo is required for the future, requiring a multi-role tanker-transport.
  • It claims EADS and Northrop “have conceded” the KC-30 is “much more costly” to operate than the KC-767; they’ve done nothing of the kind. They have conceded the KC-30 burns 6% more fuel than the KC-767, a far cry from the 24% cited by a Boeing-paid consultancy.
  • It claims Boeing has delivered 2,000 tankers in 75 years–but ignores the fact that the last Boeing-manufactured tanker, the KC-135, was delivered 42 years ago, and that the last tanker delivered by McDonnell Douglas, now a part of Boeing, was delivered 20 years ago.
  • It correctly notes that the KC-30 is in testing but ignores the fact that the KC-767AT proposed by Boeing for the Air Force is only a “paper” airplane; and the the KC-767 tanker delivered to Japan in February and March was years late and still hasn’t entered service; or that none of the KC-767 tankers ordered by Italy have been delivered and are years late.
  • It correctly notes that Boeing has designed an delivered five generations of aerial refueling booms but the sixth generation proposed to the Air Force is only a paper design. It correctly notes that the EADS boom is in testing.
  • It fairly questions past performance issues with Northrop and EADS but ignores the past performance issues of Boeing, particularly with the Italian and Japanese tanker programs.
  • It charges that 44,000 US jobs will be “exported.” This is the flimsiest claim of all. Boeing has never validated how it asserted the KC-767 will support 44,000 US jobs. Northrop initially claimed 25,000 US jobs will be supported, for a net difference of 19,000 jobs that would be subject to “export.” But Northrop later revised its figure that the KC-30 will support 48,000 jobs and “showed its math.” We’re still skeptical of this figure (how can a plane with less US content than claimed by Boeing for its KC-767 (at 85%) support more jobs?), but Northrop at least has been public about how it claims its number while Boeing refuses to do so.
  • It visits the claim of “illegal” subsidies to Airbus. Until the World Trade Organization rules in this case, perhaps as soon as next month, these are still allegations–as are the claims by the European Union that Boeing also received “illegal” subsidies. This issue is a red herring all around.

The problems with the White Paper go on and on.

8 Comments on ““White Paper” rips Tanker Award

  1. They liked an appearance of competition – that is until they lost. It scares me to think that such garbage might influence members of congress.

    I can barely believe that a Labor union for engineers is publishing something so technically dubious.

  2. Boeing is going to need all available 767 production capacity as compensation for 787 customer airlift shortfalls.

    By having EADS build A330 airframes for Northrop, they’re missing out on fulfilling that same airlift shortage.

    The KC-45 is the right tanker for the US at this time. It will give the USAF a three tier tanker fleet – KC-135, KC-45, and KC-10.

  3. I do find it nauseating that Boeing’s engineering force that designs and builds aircraft is unionized. It must be a toxic environment between management and engineering to have resulted in such an arrangement.

  4. I would be ashamed to be a member of an organization that publishes a paper with such little technical accuracy. Clearly the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers lacks professionals. Accuracy aside, it is ironic that the white paper which decries the out sourcing of American jobs is written by a group named “International…” and is US and Canadian only. Let me guess, the Canadians come from across the border near Seattle?

  5. Thanks for taking the time to post your observations. I posted a quick comment at lunch on this and was going to go into some details when I got home, but you did it faster and better.

    I’m linking ASAP.

    thanks again!

  6. The conduct of Boeing on this and other pursuits points to a company without leadership. Boeing has created its own reality and will continue to lose market share to firms who operate ethically. Boeing has violated federal law in pursuit of the tanker program, it continues to victimize its suppliers while alienating its customers (late deliveries aside) The future for Boeing is not bright. Its conduct is the hallmark of an organization that tries to achieve objectives through manipulation and deceit in lieu of performance.

  7. Pingback: GAO Protests often fail, Boeing concedes « Leeham News and Comment

  8. Interesting seeing as how the GAO sided with Boeing. You people are UNAMERICAN !!! We need an american tanker built by AMERICAN workers and our money should stay in the AMERICAN economy. HELLO WAKE UP SHEEPLE, WE ARE IN A RECESSION, and every job helps.

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