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.