It’s Wednesday and we’re here in Washington, DC. Tomorrow is the deadline for the GAO to issue its decision in the Boeing protest over the USAF tanker contract to Northrop Grumman, but the buzz here is that the announcement could come between 430-500pm EDT today.
Meantime, there have been a number of stories on the tanker that may be found via Google News. This one in the Wall Street Journal is the most interesting, although it’s reporting something we exclusively wrote about months ago: that Boeing will be out of the tanker business for 20 years or more if it loses the USAF business, including its troubled international tanker program. This is the program begun with the orders by Japan and Italy for the KC-767. The two tankers delivered to Japan still aren’t in service, due to operational troubles, according to Northrop Grumman, which is tracking Boeing’s progress. Two other tankers for Japan haven’t been delivered and none of the Italian tankers have, either, which now three years late.
This story by George Talbot of the Mobile Press-Register gives a good wrap of the the issues, the GAO process and the “what’s next.” George also includes a comment from the USAF that it would like to boost production from the planned 12-18 tankers a year to 26. Perhaps this is floating the trial balloon along the lines of what we’ve been advocating: double production and split the buy. There simply are some missions for which the KC-767 will be better suited than the KC-30, and others for which the KC-30 is better than the KC-767.
Months ago we were told a story that the Air Force selected the KC-30 because it knew the ensuing controversy would erupt and this was the only way the Air Force figured it could get the appropriation in the amount needed to get a higher replacement rate. We were never able to confirm the story (one person we asked responded he didn’t believe the Air Force was that smart). So with this strong caveat, we throw this conspiracy theory out there.
NA KOA’s protest
We previously wrote about an obscure second protest over the tanker award by an obscure company called NA KOA (na-ko-a) (June 2 on our Corporate website). We don’t expect a decision on this protest today or tomorrow; the deadline listed on the GAO website for this one is in July.
New, 1125 AM EDT: The USAF redacted copy of its filing in the GAO protest is now available here. It’s 154 pages in a PDF file.