Northrop Grumman’s opposition to granting Boeing’s request for a six month response time instead of 45-60 days for the re-bid on the KC-X competition is predictable and disappointing.
Boeing also threatened to no-bid the contract if it doesn’t get its way on the request.
As readers know, we have always felt the KC-30 was the more capable airplane for the KC-X than the KC-767 offered by Boeing. We’ve sided with Northrop on any number of issues during the competition. But not this one, as we opined on August 22.
Northrop believes that Boeing is stalling on the bet that the Democrats will increase their majorities in the House and the Senate in the November election, and that this will increase Boeing’s sympathy in Congress. We have no doubt this is part of the Boeing calculus. So what? EADS decided to locate the KC-30 production facility in Republican Alabama at a time when the Republicans controlled Congress. That was hardly a coincidence. Politics have permeated this process from the start and while there is plenty of reason to stop now, that’s not going to happen.
Boeing, in its political gambit, is taking a risk that falls into the “be careful what you ask for category,” however. While it seems certain Democrats will increase their majority in Congress, it’s hardly a sure bet today that they will win the White House. Sen. John McCain is giving Barak Obama a run for his money and if McCain wins, this won’t be good news for Boeing.
We see no harm in giving Boeing the six months. We think both sides will produce a better bid, and that’s good for taxpayers.
Meantime, Steve Trimble at Flight International has an interesting take on his blog about how the re-bid can flip-flop some of the suppliers.
Update, 09:15 AM PDT Aug. 26: Innovation Analysis Group does a six minute podcoast with an Israeli reporter discussing Israel’s plan to update its aerial tanker fleet. The air force could use the KC-135/707 for another 20 years if necessary, but it really wants to buy the same aircraft used by the USAF.
Update, 2:30 PM PDT Aug. 26: So far, no final RFP has emerged from DOD; it was thought that it might be issued yesterday. We’re picking up rumblings that it may not come out this week.
Update, 350 PM PDT Aug. 26: Reuters now reports the final RFP may be issued next week.
Update, 12:00 PDT, Aug. 27: The St. Louis Post Dispatch has this piece looking at the strategic implications of the tanker competition.