There has been more foo-faw going on with the KC-X tanker competition in the past week, largely overshadowed by the first flight of the Boeing 787. Supporters of Northrop Grumman met with Pentagon officials to urge that changes be made in the Draft RFP to assure a fair and open competition.
As soon as this became public, supporters of Boeing did the same.
It would be nice of the politicians just stay out of it.
As readers know well, Northrop is concerned that the competition is a Best Price, Technically Acceptable competition rather than a Best Value contest. The Pentagon calls this a Best Value bake-off but we agree it is really BPTA.
Northrop also gripes that Boeing has the advantage because its rival was given Northrop’s cost basis in the 2007 competition as part of the successful debrief and protest of that award to Northrop. The USAF says the Northrop cost then is irrelevant to this competition.
The interesting aspect to this complaint is that in the post-award analysis to the 2007 competition, Reuters sharp Andrea Shalal-Esa, who has followed the tanker competition forever, ferreted out the price difference: Northrop was $15m per plane less expensive than the Boeing KC-767AT bid.
It should be noted that price and cost are two very different things. But this brings us to the point of our headline.
Scott Carson was president of Boeing Commercial Aircraft during the 2007 competition. It was reasonably well understood within key aviation circles that there was a good deal of tension between BCA, headed by Carson, and IDS, then headed by Jim Albaugh, who became CEO of BCA in September following the accelerated retirement of Carson (a move seen by many as the sacrifice for the repeated 787 delays).
Carson, it is understood, pretty well blocked any prospect of offering a combination of KC-767s and KC-777s in two alternative bids in 2007 because the 777 was being produced at the factory capacity of seven per month; to make room for the KC-777 would have meant displacing commercial customers.
Carson, it is understood, also blocked what was described to us as “launch customer pricing” for the KC-767. It must be remembered that the 767 production line was presumably fully amortized long ago and that there had to be a lot of room in cost and price. But Carson wouldn’t budge on price.
But now Albaugh is head of BCA and one of his top three priorities upon moving over from IDS is to win the tanker competition. We doubt that he will hesitate to price the KC-767 for a launch customer.
Note we said KC-767. We remain firm in our belief that Boeing will not offer the KC-777 conceptual airplane.
Some time ago we posted Boeing’s KC-7A7 video, which was quite good. Today we’ve added the video of the EADS KC-30 MRTT in action (and repeated the Boeing one for comparison, with thanks to FlightGlobal’s Steve Trimble for originally mating the two).
The EADS video shows for the first time the KC-30 hooking up with fighters from the refueling pods and boom.