USAF regains tanker competition

Update, May 28: Three KC-767Js are now operational with the Japanese Defense air force. The fourth and final tanker has yet to be delivered.

Update, May 26: India reportedly has decided to buy the KC-330 MRTT. It’s widely expected France will select the MRTT as well (no surprise there). Boeing apparently didn’t offer the KC-767 to India and probably won’t waste its time with France.

While Boeing in the previous USAF competition touted the fact that it has delivered a tanker (to Japan) and Airbus hasn’t, and that this would be the ‘year of the tanker’ to get Japan’s four tankers delivered and at least the first of the Italian tankers, the company didn’t offer the International tanker to India.

Anyone know why?

Original Post:

According to this article in Reuters, the US Air Force has regained control over the competition for the KC-X tanker that will be re-run after the Government Accountability Office last year found flaws with its process.

Because of that, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was going to re-run the competition from his office. It looks like the USAF has convinced him that it can run the competition.

The Request for Proposals appears headed toward an issuance in the next 30 days or so.

A sole-source, winner-take-all competition looks like what the USAF will plan for. This supports Gates’ position (probably little surprise there) but is at various with some key Members of Congress, who have been advocating a split buy. Some other key members, including Sen. John McCain, favor a sole-source acquisition.

Boeing, along with the Senior Senator from Boeing, Patty Murray (D-WA), have recently raised as an issue protecting the US industrial base as a reason to give the award to Boeing for the KC-767. We understand the sentiment but don’t buy into the argument on this particular procurement. The USAF acquisition plans on 12-18 airplanes a year–one 1/mo to 1.5/mo. This represents roughly 3% of Boeing’s commercial production. We have a hard time understanding how losing this award at this low production rate jeopardizes the entire US aerospace industrial base. Boeing and Murray need to be a lot more convincing than this broad, sweeping statement to make this argument fly. This is another unfortunate piece of hyperbole for which Murray, US Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Boeing/WA) and Boeing engaged in during the previous competition.

Furthermore, on a technical basis, this has nothing to do with which airplane is better.

There may be plenty of reasons to support a Boeing procurement, but “protecting the US industrial base” is one of the weakest. Boeing’s own production numbers simply don’t support this view.

14 Comments on “USAF regains tanker competition

  1. Just to head off the pro-Boeing lobby, it should also be noted (even though already well known by most pf the readers here) that much of the 767 structure is made in Japan and Italy. Heaven knows how many smaller components come from outside the U.S.

    I guess the commentary is going to inctrease manyfold once the “new” RFP is released.

    Oh what fun it shall be!!

    • John,

      As a member of the “Pro-Boeing” lobby (About 75% of the American people according to a recent poll), to answer your question, Boeing says that 85% of the KC-767 is U.S. sourced.
      John, your beloved A330 will still be purchased by smaller air forces, including the RAF… Oh, I’m sorry, they’re leasing it… Or something… From… Airbus??? Air Tanker??? Uh?? Leasing??? Where have I heard that before?

      Anyway… We’ll build our own tankers thank you. KC-135s have been flying and serving for 50 years, a record Airbus and it’s cheerleaders can only dream about.

      Sal

  2. The skins? Is that what you call “much of the 767 structure”? Come on.

  3. “Anyone know why?”

    I remember reading somewhere that the specifications of the 767 we not finalised in time for this tender. I maybe wrong though.

  4. Sal,
    “Oh, I’m sorry, they’re leasing it… Or something… From… Airbus??? Air Tanker??? Uh?? Leasing??? Where have I heard that before?”
    Before coming up with that, you should have done at least a bit of research on this topic. Try googling ‘FSTA’ or Air Tanker. The tankers will be delivered to Air Tanker Ltd, which will then lease these aircraft to the RAF, the other European Air Forces or the Commercial sector. Airbus will get full payment on delivery of the aircraft. So where have you heard that before?
    One can argue about the logic in this decision on the part of the RAF, however this does not take anything away from either the A332’s capabilities or Airbus itself. In fact Airbus couldn’t care less who they deliver the planes to, as long as they get paid. I am struggling to see what point you were trying to make here.

    “We’ll build our own tankers thank you.”
    Good for you.

    “As a member of the “Pro-Boeing” lobby”
    Keep up the good work there but please do some research on the topics you mention.

    “KC-135s have been flying and serving for 50 years, a record Airbus and it’s cheerleaders can only dream about.”
    It certainly is a good record, the pro-Boeing crowd’s favourite ‘argument’. Airbus will certainly struggle to match that since it was ‘born’ in 1970. Again, a meaningless point.

  5. What’s this [deleted] all about ? How long they wanna continue with this bad show ? Until Boeing finally wins I assume. But then why make a competition in the first place. Have the guts an tell for once the truth from the beginning. Useless to pretend to the world once more. No need for Airbus to waist their energy there, rather make sure Europe buys European products with European tax money.

  6. UKAir,

    I did google AirTanker and it’s so complicated not many really understand it. But I guess you need to have an intellect like yours to do so. Apologies.

    The points I’ve made may be “meaningless” to you my friend, but they are points that are being argued today, in the U.S. as we speak. Because you disagree with them, or can’t respond in a way that you would like to, doesn’t make the points less valid.
    In the end, there is virtually no way the Obama Administration will allow a program of this importance and size go to a foreign enity.
    And since you seem to have a more balanced intellect then many of us on this side of the pond, you already knew that.

  7. Sal,
    “it’s so complicated”, “you need to have an intellect like yours”
    OK, let me help you then. Just go to http://www.airtanker.co.uk/ and read the front page. Anybody should be able to understand it, even you. Here are some highlightes:
    – AirTanker is a UK company created to provide the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA)
    – AirTanker will deliver …. comprehensive air-to-air refuelling and air transport capabilities to the Royal Air Force, using new, multi role tanker transport aircraft derived from Airbus A330-200 commercial airliners
    – The FSTA programme will replace the RAF’s current fleet of VC-10s and TriStars
    – The contract with the MOD also provides the opportunity for AirTanker to market any aircraft spare capacity to commercial airlines

    “The points I’ve made may be “meaningless” to you my friend, but they are points that are being argued today”
    The points I had clearly picked up on are:
    1. Inability to do basic reaserch on the subject of FSTA.
    2. 50 year service of KC-135, which Airbus cheerleaders should envy.

    I stand by my point that #2 is meaningless in the context of today’s competition.

    What I guess you are saying is being debated is the protection of the ‘manufacturing base’. Scott explained that point very well and much better than I could have done.
    There remains one obstacle however, in my opinion. There is a stand off between the Congress (who just want to give to Boeing whatever) and the DoD (who want to have a competition for the best product and previously chose A332). Until there is an agreement as to which way this issue should go, there will constantly be arguments. Murry tried to insert clauses in the various bills to protect the manufacturing base when it comes to this competitions, Murtha called on splitting the contract, Gates wants one winner and Dicks will not allow the purse strings to loosen until ‘Boeing’ is written on the contract. Until somebody bangs together a few heads and a way forward is agreed, there will never be a conclusion to this sad saga.
    I am fully behind the idea of a bill which will just give it to Boeing, I no problems with that. What I have a problem with is an idea of a competition (which everybody is happy with including Dicks and co.) and then an uproar when a product is chosen which does suit the local political agenda.

  8. “I stand by my point that #2 is meaningless in the context of today’s competition.”

    I’ll stand by my statement as well, in that it goes to the heart of this competition, in my view… Build quality and design philosophy. Certainly a statement to both.

    So it is anything but meaningless, the way I see it.

  9. “I’ll stand by my statement as well, in that it goes to the heart of this competition”
    No it doesn’t.

    Build Quality – All planes are designed, manufactured and certified to the same FAA and EASA requirements.
    Design Philosophy – Like what… FBW? Sidestick? Can you quantify this?

    “So it is anything but meaningless”
    What is meaningless is the following:
    50 year service of KC-135, which Airbus cheerleaders should envy

    • No it doesn’t.

      In your opinion…

      What is meaningless is the following:
      50 year service of KC-135, which Airbus cheerleaders should envy

      Again, in your opinion

  10. Carson wants to protect the “manufacturing base”?

    Three numbers make him a huge hypocrite:

    7-8-7

    I actually embarrased, as an American, A shareholder, and a state resident.

    What kills me is how these words just spill out of Carson’s mouth, smoothly and without the slightest notion of shame.

    I really hope the board doesn’t extend his retirement deadline.

    I’m all for protecting the manufacturing base. I just don’t want to hear it from Carson or any BA exec. It makes them, and by association BA, look sleazy.

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