Tanker update, June 17

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.

2 Comments on “Tanker update, June 17

  1. The GAO told NA KOA yesterday (June 17) that it would be at least 2 or 3 more weeks before they would render a decision in our case. This is due in part because they have reassigned our case to another hearing officer.

    It should also be noted that other than the aircraft size matter — Boeing’s protest covers issues that are different from NA KOA’s and the GAO has acknowledged this.

    We continue to believe that a negotiated settlement which includes a split buy of a medium and large category aircraft is the best solution. Both operationally and politically. This split buy concept was previously discussed in the AoA and by some senior officials in the USAF. A split buy of the of the KC-767 and KC-30 (both medium sized aircraft) is not as cost and operationally effective.

    The large category aircraft would replace both the KC-10 and C-5A’s. The oversize lift needs would be done with the remaining C-5M’s and C-17.

  2. Thanks for the link to the USAF redacted copy of its filing in the GAO protest.

    Looks like Boeing got its collective butts handed to them by the DoD legal team. The footote on page 130 is especially revealing:

    ” It is sometimes difficult to follow the thread of the Boeing argument. In its Third Supplemental Protest (at 8-9) and in its Sixth Supplemental Protest (at 3-4) the company asserts that a XXXX hangar factor should have been applied to the KC-30. But in making this argument Boeing is clearly laboring under the misconception that the factor is based on the size of the respective aircraft. The factor, of course, is entirely unrelated to aircraft size.”

    As for previous poster’s assertion that a split buy of a medium and large category aircraft would be the best solution, and that the “large” category aircraft would replace both the KC-10 and C-5A’s, one can easily picture NG/EADS offering an A340-500 HGW derived frame (KC-47B?) with derated GEnx-2B67 engines and a fuel capacity (at MTOW) exceeding the KC-30 with about 80 percent, for only an (estimated) 20 percent increase in acquisition purchase price over that of the KC-30.

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