Boeing is “leaning” toward offering the KC-767 to the US Air Force in the KC-X competition, an executive revealed at a conference in Everett (WA) today. Boeing previously has been coy about whether it will offer the KC-767, or a tanker based on the 777 or two separate bids, one for each airplane.
George Maffeo, Vice President of Supplier Manager for all the 7-Series commercial programs except the 787, told the annual Aerospace Conference of the British-American Business Council-Pacific Northwest that the tanker development team of Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) unit has moved over to Boeing Commercial Aircraft (BCA) to learn from their experiences to offer better technologies and cost efficiencies to beat the Northrop Grumman/EADS/Airbus KC-30.
Separately, several months ago we learned that IDS’s tanker team was consulting BCA’s 737-based P-8A Poseidon sub-hunter team in order to reduce risk for Round 3 of Boeing’s KC-X bid. The Draft Request for Proposals was issued last month; initial comments are due within 60 days, followed by a Final RFP. Bids are due in the second quarter and a contract is expected to be awarded in August, Maffeo told the conference today.
We were told several months ago that the IDS tanker team wants to learn from the BCA P-8A team what to do better. The P-8A is one of Boeing’s few success stories in recent new airplane development programs; it was rolled out on time and, people say, on budget.
Boeing still is challenged by its KC-767 International Program. Only three of four tankers have been delivered to the Japanese air force and none of the four to the Italians. The first Japanese delivery was more than a year late and the Italian tankers are expected to be at least five years late when first delivery is tendered either late this year or early next year.
One of the problems with the Italian tanker–which is very similar to the specifications the USAF had for the KC-X in the 2006 competition–was flutter issues with the wing refueling pods. Boeing, after a long and difficult period, fixed this problem. But we are told it has not fixed aerodynamic problems with the centerline fuselage hose-and-drogue system (which is in addition to the aft refueling boom). This is said to be the cause behind the continuing delays.
IDS tanker spokesman Bill Barksdale refused to confirm or discuss the drogue report. He provided this statement:
“As we said at the Paris Air Show, our main focus has been to complete the Italy KC-767 tanker flight test program, complete Federal Aviation Administration Supplemental Type Certification (STC) and then work with the U.S. Navy to complete a Military Utility Observation (MUO) required under contract. That is similar to the MUO we conducted with the U.S. Air Force earlier this year.
“We have completed the FAA STC certification requirements. Once flight testing has been completed and all resultant findings have been addressed, we’ll work with the U.S. Navy to schedule the MUO requirement. Once the MUO requirement has been completed, we’ll begin the Tender for Acceptance process with our Italian customers and deliver their advanced KC-767 tanker.
“Boeing will not forecast any dates concerning these remaining milestones. We have learned and continue to learn some great lessons from the development of both the Japanese and Italian tankers, lessons we can leverage as we enter the competition to deliver America’s next tanker.”