Boeing “leaning” toward KC-767

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.”

10 Comments on “Boeing “leaning” toward KC-767

  1. Interesting news. It seems like the new strategy is to offer the cheapest tanker they can so the contest is settled on price and minimum requirements rather than those 93 extra requirements. They maybe figure if it gets to the tiebreaker stage they’ll lose.

  2. it is interesting news. there’s a deafening silence on both tankers (KC-767 AND KC-45). Louder still due to the last news that did come out being bad for both.
    Could I be so bold to reques a similar piece on the progress of the mrtt’s for the Aussies. Last I heard about was trouble with the booms – any truth behind that or progress since then???

  3. RAAF MRTT is now about 18 months behind. Fuel boom operational test transfer now thought to be this month (October), delayed from July. We had a detailed MRTT report and its program delays prior to June’s Paris Air Show.

  4. Wow who would have thought… ‘ “leaning” toward KC-767’. I just didn’t see that coming at all. I mean, what a brilliant move! 🙂 Obviously they are leaning towards the 767, there is nothing else to lean on!

    Scott, out of interest, where does the 18 months come from? I mean, who is the source? Also, ‘behind’ what? Certification? EIS?

  5. UKAir:

    18 months: a defense writer in Australia with whom we have a good relationship is the source, and he provided us with this note last month:

    FURTHER DELAYS FOR RAAF TANKERS: Airbus Military has confirmed the first two KC-30A (A330 MRTT) tankers won’t now be delivered to the RAAF until mid 2010, an overall delay of nearly 18 months.

    Speaking to media on September 14, Airbus Military managing director Domingo Urena Raso said that aircraft number two, the first to be modified in Australia by Qantas Defence Services (QDS), would return to Europe next month to assist in the completion of the certification work on the type, and to participate in the first passing of fuel from the KC-30A’s new fly-by-wire boom.
    The third aircraft, which will be entering the modification process at QDS’s Brisbane facility soon, is due to be completed and delivered straight to the RAAF in late 2010, while the fourth and fifth aircraft will follow in 2011 and 2012 respectively

    ****

  6. Thanks for the note on the KC-30A delay. This fact seems to have been under-reported in the trade media. The only other mentions I’ve seen of problems with this aircraft have been on the Fleetbuzz Editorial and airliners.net.

  7. Thanks for the info Scott but I am confused. With so many dates being banded around, it’s difficult to keep up. I am still not clear where the ’18 months’ comes from? Does that include the additional changes requested by the RAAF?
    The Australian DoD budget report 2004/05 clearly states:
    “The in-service date (comprising two aircraft, completion of qualification testing and issue of the military airworthiness certificate) is planned for late 2009.” (presumably this does not include the changes requested by the RAAF).

    http://www.defence.gov.au/budget/04-05/dar/06_05_mce04.htm

    The certification of the MRTT is planned for Q1 2010 or early Q2. Obviously Airbus Military is doing their best to accelerate that to improve their chances with the USAF bid.

    • Here is a link to our full report on program delays for Boeing and EADS prior to the air show that explains what’s behind the delays. At that time, EIS for the MRTT was supposed to be February. Fuel transfer for the MRTT-installed boom was supposed to be July. It’s now this month, supposedly, which accounts for more of the delay. Some of the original delay was due to customer changes, as noted in our report; the rest is EADS.
      http://leehamnews.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/performance-in-kc-x-rebid/

  8. Pingback: USAF used criteria GAO rejected in new DRFP: KC-30 backers « Leeham News and Comment

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