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?
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.