KC-X FRFP due Feb. 23; does a report hint on outcome?

The Final Request for Proposals for the USAF’s KC-X aerial tanker is due to be issued Feb. 23. The controversial and hotly contested procurement between Boeing and Northrop Grumman is supposed to be decided as a result of information provided in the FRFP, but does another document issued this month by DOD hint at the outcome?

The Aircraft Investment Plan (AIP)-Fiscal Years (FY) 2011-2040, Submitted with the FY 2011 Budget, is a report mandated by law to be submitted to Congress by the Secretary of Defense on an annual basis. It’s a short report, just 26 pages, and it’s dry reading. The section on Aerial Refueling Tanker Aircraft is short: just two paragraphs (Pg. 21). But does this provide a hint as to the outcome of the competition for the KC-X contract?

The relevant passages are:

“The Air Force plans to develop and procure 109 new KC-X tankers by 2020. It will be able to refuel other aircraft in flight….

“Over the longer term, the Air Force will evaluate options for recapitalizing its tanker fleet and assess the potential of including secondary capabilities, such as airlift, communications support and aeromedical evacuations.” (Emphasis added.)

These secondary capabilities are critical to the Northrop Grumman bid for its KC-30 proposal. Northrop won the 2007 competition based on the KC-30’s ability to carry more fuel, more cargo, more troops and more medical evacuations than Boeing’s KC-767. Northrop threatens to not bid on this round of the competition unless extra credit is given for these extra capabilities.

The AIP, in the two short paragraphs about the KC-X, appears pretty clear: tanker now, secondary capabilities later.

DOD has said it doesn’t plan to change the FRFP much to meet the Northrop objections.

We have only five days to see.

Finally: the AIP makes clear what the procurement of the KC-X will be: seven in FY2013, 12 in FY2014 and 15 a year thereafter through FY2020. DOD also plans to procure the KC-130 turbo-prop aerial tanker for the Navy/Marines at varying rates from FY2013-20.

23 comments on “KC-X FRFP due Feb. 23; does a report hint on outcome?

  1. Brilliant!

    Everything that could squeezed from the Airbus’ fake invitation to bid has been squeezed.

    Now that Boeing has lowered their price (being told what NGC’s last bid was), time to close the chapter and give them the contract.

      • UKAir:

        They still need to reduce the price because they do not know if NGC will bid or not, and if they do, the price difference between the two offers will have to be more than 1%, or the secondary requirements that would weigh in favor of the KC-330 would be triggered.

  2. You may be giving the Fed Gov too much credit thinking the AIP hints at what is in the FRFP. Are not these the people that patented the process of “one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing?” And, this does not even address their handling of the tanker procurement to date.

    If I could vent a bit: what is most bothersome to me is that the RFP is slanted towards a mature platform (i.e. EADS/Northrop’s and Boeing’s first tanker offerings) vs. an evolved platform (i.e. the so called “Frankentanker”). Please correct me if I’m wrong here. So, if Boeing is awarded the contract, the award will most likely be driven by Boeing having a lower offering price on a “proven” platform (such as the one developed for the Italians). The irony being that the warfighter will then get a plane that is not only less capable than the EADS platform but inferior in the eyes of Boeing as well!

  3. The odd thing in that paragraph is that KC-X was intended from the beginning to be more than a tanker like the KC-135. The KC-767 offers those secondary capabilities. It just doesn’t offer as much secondary capability as the bigger KC-45.

    • The odd thing is I don’t bother much about what type of tanker the KC-135 was. I bother about the costs.

      “Over the longer term, the Air Force will evaluate options for recapitalizing its tanker fleet and assess the potential …”

      Pardon? Air Force has to assess this now.

      The KC-135 is running into maintenance madness because this aircraft was hardly used -about 500 flying hours a year – and therefore could get that old. It’s quite a financial difference to buy 500 aircrafts for 50 years or 5 times 100 aircrafts for 10 years.

      I’m aware of the fact that US Air Force needs a certain amount of tanker but just using them like the KC-135 would result in a scenario US Air Force operating once an over 100 year old aircraft design (First flight A330 1992 + 80 years of service).

      To avoid this madness again USAF must use the tanker as much for other missions as possible. The only way to do this is to use of the KC-X as an airlifter. So “including secondary capabilities, such as airlift, communications support and aeromedical evacuations.” is essential to reduce the costs.

      The expected lifetime for a C-17 is about 30 years at a rate of 1,000 flying hours per year. Therefore KC-X should be used for additional 500 flying hours a year as an airlifter.

      Why should the US Air Force use the KC-X instead of C-17 for transportation of bulk cargo? The C-17 guzzles about twice the amount of fuel of a KC-X at a shorter range. A KC-X could fly many missions unrefueled where a C-17 had to be refueled. A KC-767 could transport about the same amount of pallets and a KC-30 twice the amount of pallets.

      So when will Air Force assess this potential? I think just after the contract was handed over to Boeing.

      • “Over the longer term, the Air Force will evaluate options for recapitalizing its tanker fleet and assess the potential …”

        Perhaps this is the Air Force way of saying that they want a split by after all?

      • That potential has been assessed to some extent, so I don’t know why the document doesn’t make that clear. The KC-767 is capable of carrying 19 standard military 463-L pallets, and the KC-45A is capable of carrying 32. This cargo carrying ability has been part of KC-X since the beginning, and the USAF has long known that tanker operations tend to involve peaks and valleys of use, allowing it to use a tanker/freighter to carry cargo in the valleys. The KC-10 already offers this capability, and it’s not like the USAF isn’t familiar with what that aircraft brings to the table.

  4. A bit of history- In Dec 2001- EADS claimed they could beat the BA cost by 40 percent on the tanker [lease of a modified 767 ] One has to wonder what EADS was proposing THEN. Of course BA seduced fido at that time.


    At that time – the issue really was JOBS.

    Now 9 years later, the costs have gone up con siderably, so one must wonder just what was really gained or lost in the 8 plus year interim.

    Again – the issue is JOBS

    • Don:

      Both the 767 and the A330 share the same supplier base (there might be a bit more Japanese content on the 767…)

      Most suppliers who were interviewed said that they were on both platforms, and that it didn’t matter to them who won.

    • As I remember EADS offered the smaller A310 for the lease deal. The aircraft was just a little bit smaller than 767-200 but far too small for US Air Force. Now the A330-200 is said to be far too big.

      • EADS offered the A330 for the lease deal, below are some quotes from Wikipedia for the first contest the USAF issued to justify their selection of the KC-767 over the KC-30 or KC-330 as it was known then. The question is why did EADS switch horses midstream and offer an A330 frame instead of the A310 frame when it was clear the USAF wanted a 767/A310 sized frame for the first contest? Does anyone know the answer here? It seems like an A310 based solution costing 40% less than a KC-767 could have been a real winner, why change what would seem to be a winning strategy and offer something the customer clearly didn’t want as is evident from the quotes below.

        “The KC-330 increase in size does not bring with it a commensurate increase in available air refueling offload,…” (USAF quote)
        The KC-330 “..presents a higher-risk technical approach and a less preferred financial arrangement.” (USAF quote)
        ” the size difference of the EADS-proposed KC-330 results in an 81 percent larger ground footprint compared to the KC-135E it would replace, whereas the Boeing 767 is only 29 percent larger.” (USAF quote)

      • The answer is quite simple John.
        All the quotes may belong to Darleen Druyun.

        As I remember EADS offered the A310 before offering the bigger A330 because at that time the A310MRTT was already in development. Just like in the last round EADS neither offered an A320 nor an A380 due to preliminary negotiations.

  5. “Finally: the AIP makes clear what the procurement of the KC-X will be: seven in FY2013, 12 in FY2014 and 15 a year thereafter through FY2020. DOD also plans to procure the KC-130 turbo-prop aerial tanker for the Navy/Marines at varying rates from FY2010-20.”

    This doesn’t seem to be right. When NG was awarded the initial KC-45 contract (on February 29th, 2008), the USAF expected to recieve the first group of operational KC-45A aircraft in the year 2013. So now, two years later, they still expect to receive the first operational frames in that year? Yeah, right!

    • Pre-production “prototypes” deliver in 2013/14, with production aircraft in 2015. The 2007 competition anticipated production airplanes delivering in 2013 and pre-production aircraft in 2011.

      • In the Appendix Chart 5, Tanker Procurement Quantities, FY 2011-2020, (page 26 in the linked document), 7 aircraft are slated for delivery in FY 2013, 12 in FY 2015 and 15 frames per year thereafter.

        Last time around, the initial 4 aircraft were designated the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) aircraft while the following aircraft had the following lot designation:

        LRIP lot 1 – 7 A/C
        LRIP lot 2 – 12 A/C
        FRP lot 3 – 15 A/C
        FRP lot 4 – 15 A/C
        FRP lot 5 – 15 A/C

        So clearly, the AIP is not correct. The chart seems to be one copied from two years ago.

        If I understand this correctly, the four SDD aircraft would be delivered in FY 2013, with lot 1 coming online in FY 2015. “Only” 79 KC-X tankers will have been delivered by 2020 (best case scenario), and not 109 which is stipulated for in the AIP.

  6. I must have missed the change from 179 new tankers to 109. Had this been announced before?

    According to Table 1 (AIP p 14), in FY11, the AF will have 549 tankers, including 489 KC-135s (549-60 KC-10s), while in 2020 they will have 534, including 365 Stratotankers (534-109 KCXs and 60 KC-10s); ie, in ten years, will consist of 70% -135s which will then be 60 years old. An what will we do with those aged planes in 2020? The AIP says nothing about how they will be replaced after 2020.

    Why this reduction now, after more than two years of senseless battles? I sense the outlines of a compromise which will break the current deadlock and serve the premise we should have been operating on all along: That the nation is best served by production lines in Ala and Washington. Thus, Boeing gets 109 tankers, and AB gets 70 A330-200F freighters to provide the lift Gen Licht said we need. Boeing can build the tankers at a nice profit on its new lean 767 line in Washington, and AB has a large enough order to set up a line in Ala, particularly if the deal includes some kind US help for the cost of setting the line, in exchange for AB’s agreeing to build all 200Fs in the US.

    This compromise resembles Scott’s arguments that the AF should buy both tankers because they serve different missions. The change is that the missions are tanker and freighter, and that by buying the -200F, we will not pay a premium for the expense of converting -200 to a tanker, and will get a full-time freighter instead of a part time one.

    The only trouble with my theory is that it is not mentioned in the AIP.

  7. “Over the longer term, the Air Force will evaluate options for recapitalizing its tanker fleet and assess the potential of including secondary capabilities, such as airlift, communications support and aeromedical evacuations.”

    No mystery here. Lest we forget, once we finally have KC-X awarded and uncontested, we have KC-Y and KC-Z to contend with.

  8. Boeing sends 1,000 Workers Layoff Notices

    Boeing Co. (BA) announced Friday that it had sent 1,000 layoff notices to workers in Washington state and California, alerting them that they’re at risk of losing their jobs on April 23. The layoffs are part of the aircraft manufacturer’s 10,000 job cuts originally planned for 2009.

    The Associated Press reported that 800 of those targeted are technology workers in Boeing’s Engineering, Operations & Technology unit. Half of those receiving notices are in Washington’s Puget Sound area, where Boeing’s commercial airline division is located, and about 300 are based in California. A spokesperson says it’s possible that not all workers who get a notice will be terminated. Boeing has 158,500 employees worldwide.

    The layoffs come two days after Boeing reached an agreement with the IAM District 751 union on a voluntary layoff plan. Prior to the agreement, Boeing had said it planned to reduce workers in the Puget Sound area this year by 2,000.

    On its website, District 751 President Tom Wroblewski put a positive spin on the potential layoffs. “This is especially appealing for those members who were planning to retire anyway,” Wroblewski wrote. “It is a win-win situation, and it allows those who want to leave another option, along with some additional benefits.”

    Boeing shares were up $0.92 to $63.81 in afternoon trading.



  9. Pingback: Get over it and move on « Leeham News and Comment

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