Concern grows over mum Air Force, but EADS won’t protest, says Reuters

Update, 10:30 PST: Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, who has come in for our share of criticism for his unabashed bashing of Airbus and subsidies as it relates to the KC-X competition, has this very good essay on why Boeing won.

Here is a link to Richard Aboulafia’s commentary.

Original Post:

We are hearing from a variety of sources  a growing concern that the Air Force hasn’t been as forthcoming as it should be in its debriefs with EADS.

But Reuters moved a story a short time ago that EADS won’t protest.

The Mobile Press-Register, in a rare front-page editorial, and the Alabama Congressional delegation are complaining that the Air Force has been as forthcoming as they believe it should about why Boeing won the tanker contract. Publicly, the Department of Defense said Boeing was the “clear” winner in what had become a price shoot out. DOD, EADS and Boeing will not reveal the pricing.

While the newspaper and the politicians are concerned, we understand that the USAF has complied with its legal obligations in the debriefs to EADS. The debrief occurred for 90 minutes on Monday and 75 minutes on Tuesday.

Here are several stories out today on the topic.

Aviation Week, on the process.

Flight International, on the prospect of a protest and some background.

Flight International, on the prospect of a European backlash. We’ve heard about this, too, from our sources. Europe, get over it. If Boeing won on price, it won on price. That’s what this contest was about.

The question now is whether EADS’ Congressional supporters will try to block the appropriation in order to force a split buy, or to hold hearings on the procurement and pricing. We hope not. As we previously opined, it’s time to move on.

24 Comments on “Concern grows over mum Air Force, but EADS won’t protest, says Reuters

  1. Dispite what the talking heads that support EADS says, It will be EADS’s decision alone whether to protest to the GAO, or not. They have a week from today to make that decision.

    BTW, that Flight Internatioal story about a backlash from Europe over the tanker decision, does anyone really think amny US made weapons (aside from the F-35) really has ever had a chance. No one realy thinks the French will choose the US made MQ-9 over the compiting UAV from EADS, do they? I don’t.

    • but the euro’s are developing the eurohawk… a modified globalhawk. The Italians paid in euro’s for their KC-767’s, England are very happy with their C-17’s and the Dutch are launch customer for the new Chinook.

      despite the large sums that travel from Yurp to Yank for weapons, I don’t think there should be any backlash. If EADS accepts the loss, there’s no reason to make a fuss.

    • You should really open your eyes in terms of procurements in Europe.

      France is in the process of choosing the Predator for one of its UAV. True, EADS doesn’t really have any options regarding a Predator competitor, but France is nevertheless agreeing on using a US product. As it has been for the past decades.

      Moreover, a drone is not a refluing tanker. The impacts regarding the “security” is completely different and you cannot compare the two.

      A refluying tanker has no real intelligence impact (breach of security in its usages and localisations) as opposed to a drone.

  2. France is a pretty closed market. For them to complain about U.S. chauvinism in procurement is tres drole.

    • Apart from general comments and on-dits, do you have solid examples of this ?

      Europe and France are in the process of removing most of their protectism on their procurements. The differences of rail procurements (no enforcement of having 50% of the product build in _France_) for example is one of them and certainly not the smallest.

      Choosing a French company over choosing a company that produce in France is not chauvinism, it’s stupidity.

  3. Is bashing Airbus allowed on this site? (With regard to Dr. Thompson) Simple truth is the vast majority of the regular posters on this site, regularly criticize Boeing.

  4. My goodness. What self-important puffery from a paid Boeing shill! How disappointing that such drivel was offered as a “very good essay.” Thompson must be paid by the keystroke, for in far fewer words he could have succinctly stated that the less-expensive plane won and that “more, more, more” was not necessarily the best fit for the U.S. That’s it.

    • Hmpf,
      Mr Thompsons essay assignment went beyond that. ( Don’t know about his payment,
      that probably has more sinister valuation than just word count )
      He must express in unobtrusive language why he dearly predicted another outcome
      in the decissive timeframe before final submissions.

      Mr Thompsons is not, as one may naivly assume, in the analysing business
      but in the political guidance business.

      Diverging from the Pravda Airforce position, that this is a merit based decisission, most publicly visible political forces tag this as a political decission and approriate credit is taken by select entities.

      Rather unexpectedly “Boeing is the better provider” is pushed into the background.

  5. OK, RTL and UWE: these comments are pushing the boundaries under our Rules for reader comments. Back off on the personal invective. We have our issues with Thompson, too, but you both are going too far.

  6. Rpx :
    France is a pretty closed market. For them to complain about U.S. chauvinism in procurement is tres drole.

    The French Air Force fly the E3-Sentry, the KC-135 and the C-130

    But yes, it is a Chauviniste country

    • Notice that I said it’s a “pretty closed” market. If I had meant that it’s completely closed, I would have said so. By your way of thinking, the U.S. is a completely open market because it’s bought C-27J, the AW101, the EC-145, the CN-235, etc.

      Can’t have it both ways.

  7. Let’s face it. If EADS finds an error has been made, they should protest. Just as Boeing did 3 years ago. Back then everybody thought Boeing should win and they lost. Turns out there was a problem with the selection.
    Now everybody thought EADS was going to win (OK, not everybody. I believed this was, once again, Boeing’s to lose) and yet Boeing won.

    After all, what does EADS have to lose by protesting (in the case of finding an error)? Or better yet, what do they gain by not doing so? The good will of the Pentagon?! That won’t pay any bills. The Pentagon claims they can’t punish protesters. By the same token, they cannot reward “team players”.
    Do they get the good will of Congress? That’s not even worth answering.

    End result: if, but only if, EADS finds a fault they CAN and should protest.

  8. A couple of comments on the Thompson article:
    -he wrote a similar justifying article for the EADS victory 3 years ago,
    only to flip flop at a later date. Will history repeat itself?

    -his little history of the KC-135 replacement saga overlooks (omits?
    ignores?)2 major points:
    1. The USAF’s initial assertation that the KC-135s could be
    reworked to last until 2040.
    2. The initial lease offering was a thinly disguised cash infusion for
    Boeing, partially due to the affects of September 11. (What many
    seem to forget is that the airline industry, especially the american
    airlines, was in big trouble before this event. The airlines were
    able to use the attack as an excuse for all of their financial woes.)
    -I also personally believe he overplayed the whole “funding” issue,
    which I see as something of a red herring in this whole story.
    -he seems to devote quite some space in justifying himself and salvaging
    his image/reputation.
    -from the paragraph where he describes the USAF acquisition solution for
    getting “protest free” tankers to the third last paragraph (barring the
    WTO ho-hum) was a good summary of events

    I have a question about this basing constraints issue. Does anybody know anything about this? Is there any place where one can look this information up? Does Dr. Thompson have access to the USAF modelling/evaluation data or is he getting his informaiton from Boeing or is he merely geussing/assuming?

    Last comment. 179 aircraft at a $40 million price difference is over $7 billion. KC135TopBoom claims the new deal is being announced for $30 billion instead of $35 billion. Seems like Boeing is still going to make a good buck on this deal.

  9. By the way, I believe a much more objective, informative and relevant article is Richard Abouloufia’s February editorial (at his website).
    I would reccommend this over the Thompson piece any day of the week.

    p.s. Scott, one of your new links scared me until I actually went there.
    Thanks for that. Good find there.

    • Got the spelling wrong again. Should be Richard Aboulafia.

    • Aero Ninja, thanks for pointing out Aboulafia’s reasonable and thoughtful commentary. Leeham, thanks for the link.

  10. Aero Ninja, I said the value of the KC-46A contract was now $30B because that is what the SecAF said at the press conference last Thursday. The KC-X program was widely advertised at $35B before the announcement that awarded Boeing the contract.

    • Sorry. I wasn’t disputing that figure. I just didn’t know exactly what your source was, thus you were my source!

  11. CBL :

    Rpx :France is a pretty closed market. For them to complain about U.S. chauvinism in procurement is tres drole.

    The French Air Force fly the E3-Sentry, the KC-135 and the C-130
    But yes, it is a Chauviniste country

    Yes, you are correct. But France ordered the KC-135Fs in 1962 the E-3Fs in 1991, and the few C-130s in between. What has France bought from us in the (nearly) last 20 years?

    Did France open a compitition when they were thinking about a new airlifter? No, they went ahead and ordered the A-400 without any compitition. Then it was France that squached the P&W Canada engine, insisting on a “European” engine that did not exsits at the time.

    • You are aware that the runup to the A400M was a transatlantic project
      that included Lockheed? Lockheed ran away and built the new Hercules
      (more expensive, less payload than even the original).
      So the “competition” had already run its course so to speak.

  12. Yes, LM was involved in the A-400 program in the beginning. But, they saw the writing on the wall and went to improve on their own C-130H. They did and built what is now a good airplane. Yes, the C-130J is more expensive than the original C-130A of 1954. But the C-130J carries about the same as the C-130H, and more than the C-130E.

  13. Also, Airbus Military was reported to have preferred using Pratt engines on the A400M but were instructed to buy Euro. This stuff happens all the time. To pretend that only the U.S. does it just doesn’t fit reality.

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