Update, December 8:
Bill Barksdale, Boeing KC-7A7 spokesman, emailed us with a response to this column. We have posted his note in the Comments section below.
The USAF used criteria in the current Draft RFP for the KC-X competition that had been rejected by the Government Accountability Office’s review of the Boeing protest last year, an analysis by prepared by EADS North America and Northrop Grumman asserts.
This unfairly tilts the current DRFP toward the Boeing KC-767 and is the basis Northrop why said it will not submit a bid unless major changes are made with the Final RFP.
The analysis was distributed to selected Members of Congress within the last 12 days. We obtained a copy of the analysis over the weekend. The Air Force is expected to receive a copy December 8 during a previously scheduled meeting with Northrop.
If the analysis is accurate, and it will naturally be questioned by Boeing and its supporters and probably disputed by the USAF, it may explain several recent statements at least in part:
What did Northrop/EADS conclude in its analysis of the DRFP? The companies note that Boeing filed complaints covering 111 items but the GAO upheld only eight complaints. Yet the USAF adopted the Boeing parameters of several of the GAO’s rejected findings to the disadvantage of the Northrop KC-30. A sysopsis:
Of the complaints by Boeing that were upheld:
Of the Boeing complaints the GAO rejected:
Northrop/EADS provides a long list which we won’t replicate here, with the underlying point that the USAF adopted Boeing complaints that the GAO rejected, which favor Boeing and disadvantage Northrop. Among these:
Northrop/EADS assert that the current DRFP requirements are “written to a 767-derived tanker.” The companies also claim the USAF no longer requires wing-mounted refueling pods, something Boeing has had vexing difficulties with on the KC-767, now favoring instead the centerline hose-and-drogue system. Ironically, Boeing says it has fixed the wing pod issue and we’ve heard instead has difficulties with the centerline system–something Boeing declines comment on. Northrop notes that “some airspeed requirements for the wing-mounted pods have been removed,” citing the specific sections of the DRFP. This was an issue, for the wing pods on the KC-767 designed for the Italians had flutter problems above a certain airspeed. We were told by several sources, not connected with Northrop/EADS, that Boeing had to reduce the airspeed on the Italian tanker to eliminate the flutter. (Boeing denies this.)
It is clear that Northrop/EADS is working The Hill (Congress) to gin up support for its view that the current DRFP is written for Boeing’s KC-767. Northrop was quick to point to the IDS CEO statement at an investor’s conference last week that the DRFP tilted toward the 767 as validating Northrop’s complaint on this score.
We continue to maintain that there are solid strategic reasons to support a split buy. It is obvious on a political basis that a split buy is the only way the USAF is going to recapitalize its tanker fleet in a timely manner.