2009 ‘Year of Boeing tanker’

The head of the Boeing Tanker Program call this the ‘Year of the Tanker,” according to a news release from the company.

In the news release, Dave Bowman, VP and GM of the program, vows to win the KC-X competition that is to be resumed this year. It’s unclear yet whether the Pentagon will simply pick up where it left off last September when suspending the competition or whether an entirely new process will be started.

Boeing claims 44,000 jobs will be supported by its KC-767 tanker. Northrop claims 48,000 jobs for its KC-30. Boeing claims its tanker is 85% American content by value; Northrop claims its tanker is 60% US content (and that the KC-767 is 69% US content). Boeing’s supporters, notably Sen. Murray, challenge Northrop’s jobs claims but have nothing concrete to back up the challenge. (We’re highly skeptical of both claims, for reasons we’ve written about many times.)

But what is truly “American built?” The Wall Street Journal today (Jan. 26)  has a very interesting article asking this question of the automotive industry. The parallels to aerospace are apt.

Boeing’s internal press release on the tanker follows.

Bowman tells Wichita team, 2009 is ‘Year of the Tanker’

Dave Bowman¸ vice president and general manager of Boeing’s Tanker Program¸ addresses workers at the Wichita¸ Kansas site this week during a two-day visit.

In the last few months, Tanker Program employees in Wichita have made huge contributions of time and effort, especially in the International Tanker Program modifying KC-767 jets into aerial refueling tankers for Boeing’s Italy and Japan customers.

“Your continued hard work to deliver quality aircraft and systems to our customers is critical to our long-term success,” said Dave Bowman, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s Tanker Program. “I appreciate it, our leadership appreciates it and our customers appreciate it. I want to say thank you and congratulations.”

Addressing three separate all-employee meetings across the Wichita site, including one that drew more than 150 workers in the facility that modifies KC-767s for the Italian Air Force and Japan’s Air Self-Defence Force, Bowman said workers have helped put the International Tanker Program closer to the finish line for delivering the advanced aerial refuelers.

“We are going to cross that finish line. I know we have the right team and the right workers in place,” Bowman told employees. “I have committed 2009 to being the ’Year of the Tanker.’”

Bowman’s goals include delivering Japan’s next two KC-767Js — Japan’s third aerial refueling tanker is on schedule for delivery in March. Japan received its first two KC-767s tankers in February and March 2008.

Another goal is getting all four KC-767s refueling tankers for the Italian Air Force completed before the end of 2009.

And Bowman said his third tanker goal is for Boeing to end up on top in a reopened KC-X competition to build the U.S. warfighters their next generation of aerial refueling tankers.

During his visit to Wichita, Bowman met with select employees in several roundtables and received a day-long detailed team briefing on the progress of the Japan and Italy tanker programs.

Boeing has two KC-767s in flight test for the Italian Air Force in addition to modification work being done on two additional tankers for the ItAF. The basic KC-767A for Italy is a “convertible combi” which means it can carry all passengers, all cargo, or a combination of passengers and cargo.

In any configuration, the KC-767 maintains its primary aerial refueling capability. The new Italian tanker has an open architecture cockpit and advanced aerial refueling boom with a remote aerial refueling operator (RARO) station, as well as wing pod and centerline hose and drogue systems, and a refueling receptacle.

The Japan Aircraft also has an open architecture cockpit and is configured with the advanced Boeing air refueling boom and an advanced Remote Aerial Refueling Operator (RARO) II system. The JDA selected the convertible freighter configuration, allowing it to carry cargo or passengers, while maintaining its primary role as an aerial tanker. With a convertible freighter interior, the Japan tanker can be rapidly converted from all-passenger to all-cargo configurations.

7 Comments on “2009 ‘Year of Boeing tanker’

  1. There are a couple of “minor” differences in the procurement landscape this year from last.
    1. A new administration that is committed to protecting American jobs and the U.S. industrial base.
    2. An even more Democratic congress than the last one.
    3. A severe recession, with daily tallies of job losses & layoffs.

    I do not see the Obama administration even remotely wanting to have to deal with the controversy of selecting the european airframe? At some point, the debate ends and political reality intrudes. I hope the USAF has finally learned this lesson. By now, they would have had funding in place for the KC-767. As it stands, they don’t even know if they’ll get a chance at a KC-X.

    Prediction: the existing tankers will soldier on and the KC-135Es may even be re-engined. Failing that, the administration and congress will work a deal to sole source the KC-X to Boeing.

  2. Aurora, I concur. I think the new boss is going to give his DoD head some “advice and guidance” before the bidding is resumed. I just dread the delays that an inevitable NG protest will create. We need to get this program to production!

  3. Why not have a competitive split contract and build tankers in Mobile for Northrop and Seattle for Boeing. Employ 100,000 people nationwide and in 3 years – when the depression if over – give the bulk of the balance of the contract to the best performer….on budget and on time. Northrop builds B2 Bombers and will have an excellent facility in Mobile, Alabama. Boeing is a first class company. A split contract will employ many in a matter of months. Anything less will be appealed again for years.

    • B-2 bombers have not been built for approximatley 25yrs. And most of the structure was built by Boeing in Seattle

  4. northrop grumman was given this and then taken away. How wrong is this . alabama needs this very bad. I just don’t understand the logic

  5. Boeing plulled out al the stops to get this re- bid, after having blown it.

    Northrop should be given it back as they had the sense to bid it well 9in the first place, to start with, and; have not been caught with their hand in this cookie jar, as Boeing has and proabably still is.

  6. You dont think ScareBus has their hands in a cookie jar….they are government funded, they work for and are paid by the cookie jar. I am an on call mechanic for the wing pods and centerline units on the 767 and have been involved with this since the beginning. Boeing didnt necessarily blow it the airforce changed the contract. Boeing offered the 777 2 years ago and was turned down, being told it was too big. So what does the Air force do?? they pick a plane that is more apt to replace the kc10 not the kc135. Its too big! You have heard all the arguments Im sure. Has Airbus been flying their plane with pods and centerline units. I have not seen any pictures. We are in flight test, we have been passing fuel on all points. We dont need to build any new support for this, we can start when the contract is awarded. Airbus still has to build a facility in Alabama. How long do you think it will be (if ever) when they are retrofitting planes in the US. You dont think the French are gonna protect their jobs and keep it all there? Think about it. Neither company is perfect and they both have their hands in the cookie jar. Its a tough business and they will do what they can to land contracts. I for one choose to keep as much as we can here. PERIOD.

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