The death today of US Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, means US Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Boeing/WA) will likely succeed him, and this is bad news for Northrop Grumman and its bid for the KC-X USAF aerial tanker.
Murtha supported a plan to split the buy between Northrop’s KC-30, based on the Airbus A330-200, and Boeing’s KC-767 despite opposition from the Department of Defense for a dual procurement. Murtha believed a split buy was the only solution that would win Congressional funding to replace the 50-year old Boeing KC-135s.
Dicks not only has steadfastly supported the KC-767, he has equally steadfastly opposed a split buy. With Murtha’s voice now stilled, Dicks is in a stronger position to oppose a split buy.
The Final Request for Proposals is due out this month. Northrop threatens to not bid on the contract unless significant changes to the Draft RFP are made to account for the KC-30’s larger fuel, troop and cargo capacity vs. the KC-767. Boeing is prepared to offer a tanker based on the even-larger 777, but this is a conceptual airplane and the DRFP marks down developmental planes vs off-the-shelf offerings such as the KC-30 and KC-767.