Pontifications: Biden’s new “Buy American” policy may hit Lockheed Martin-Airbus plans to compete in KC-Y tanker bid

By Scott Hamilton

Aug. 2, 2021, © Leeham News: A move by the Biden Administration may have unintended consequences in the KC-Y Bridge Tanker procurement by the US Air Force.

The Bridge Tanker is the Air Force’s second round to replace the aging Boeing KC-135 fleet. Between 140-160 airplanes will be purchased under KC-Y. The Air Force awarded a contract to Boeing in the previous KC-X procurement for 179 tankers based on the 767-200ER platform.

President Joe Biden announced last week that the US will adopt a rule under its Buy American policy that American content must be increased from 55% to 60% immediately and ultimately 75%.

If adopted, the rule appears to all but preclude an expected proposal by a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Airbus (LMA) to offer the KC-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT). This is based on the A330-200 platform.

Lockheed Martin did not respond to a request for comment.

Buy American

President Biden made increasing the US government’s purchases of “buy American” a major goal of his administration.

“The Buy American statute says products bought with taxpayer dollars must ‘substantially all’ be made in the U.S. However, today, products could qualify if just 55%–just over half—of the value of their component parts was manufactured here. The NPRM proposes an immediate increase of the threshold to 60% and a phased increase to 75%,” the White House said in a statement. NPRM stands for Notice of Proposed Rule Making, a process required before certain policies may be adopted.


The US Office and Management and Budget (OMB) is the agency through which the NPRM will be issued. The NPRM proposes increasing the US content “immediately” from 55% to 60%, then to 65% by 2024. By 2029, the content required will jump to 75%.

The Federal News Network explains more here.

The Air Force already is in the early stages of the procurement process. A contract will be awarded in 2023, under the current timeline. First flight testing is targeted for 2027. Fully functioning tankers will be delivered in 2029, under the planning in place now.

Whether the LMA proposal will be able to qualify is a question. In the earlier KC-X competitions, Northrop Grumman, and Airbus (NGA) initially partnered to offer the KC-330 MRTT. NGA won, but the award was overturned on appeal. Airbus, via its parent EADS (as it was then called), competed alone in the re-competition when Northrop bowed out. Boeing won.

In both competitions, the American content was a technical and a political issue. Airbus had to comply with the 55% American content requirement. Selecting the GE Aviation CF-6 engine went a long way toward achieving this goal. Coupled with American-sourced avionics, landing gear, systems and components that are routinely part of the A330 design anyway, Airbus complied with the 55% threshold. Airbus also committed to assembling the MRTT in Mobile (AL), which at the time did not have any Airbus facility as it does today.

Meeting new thresholds

Will LMA be able to meet the 60% threshold that “immediately” takes effect? Or will certain Defense contracts be exempt? Or since the process already began, are the interested parties “vested?” LNA doesn’t have the information to fully understand the ramifications.

But we can conclude that more than likely, the standards—whether new or old—probably rule out an MRTT based on the A330-800 neo, which uses Rolls-Royce engines. The MRTT’s GE engines enabled Airbus and NGA to meet the 55% threshold.

What about using the GEnx engines on the A330neo? The airplane would have to be certified to swap engines from RR to GE, not an insurmountable issue but one that adds costs.

LNA believes LMA will offer the A330-200-based MRTT. The engine choices are the GE CF-6 used now for the MRTT or switching to the Pratt & Whitney PW 4000 used on the Boeing KC-46A. Offering the Air Force engine commonality may be attractive, but LNA believes in the end, LMA will stick with the GE engine.

But how does LMA meet the 60% “immediate” threshold, let alone future, higher ones?

Where will the MRTT be assembled?

Where will LMA suggest the MRTT be assembled? This is another good question.

Production of the A330 family already is limping along at just 2/mo. The production rate of the MRTT currently is just four per year. Certainly, an order for 140-160 KC-Y tankers could boost the rate. But with a small skyline with weak customers for the A330neo, how could two production lines be justified?

But if LMA does suggest assembling the KC-Y in the US, where? Airbus could build yet another final assembly line (FAL) in Mobile, next to the A320 and A220 FALs. But Lockheed Martin may have other ideas. LMA is headquartered in Georgia. The C-130 is assembled there. There are fighter FALs in South Carolina and Florida, Texas, and California. If Lockheed Martin has any excess capacity or surplus facilities, this will undoubtedly factor into the decision. So will politics. Locating the FAL in a key state may benefit Congressional support.

Keeping the line open

In a bit of déjà vu all over again, Airbus must figure out how to keep the A330 production going until the outcome of the KC-Y competition is known and if LMA wins, until production of the KC-Y begins.

There currently is a backlog of 13 MRTTs, produced at a rate of four per year. This takes the MRTT production to 2024, the year after the contract award is targeted. According to data reviewed by LNA, there are firm orders for the neo scheduled for delivery through 2032. But the customer quality includes weak airlines. Lessors represent a portion of the orders, for which lessees are not identified—not unusual at this stage. There are also several “Unidentified” customers, whose quality cannot be determined.

Boeing’s performance

Boeing’s performance on the KC-46A program almost certainly will become an issue. The company already wrote off $5bn in cost overruns. The tanker was delivered years late, with Category 1 deficiencies, the most severe of shortcomings. But by 2023 when the KC-Y contract is supposed to be awarded, Boeing undoubtedly will argue that it fixed all the problems and—presumably—is delivering a fully operational, reliable tanker with a track record that can be defended.

Airbus will counter that introduction of its MRTT elsewhere was earlier, smoother, and more reliable. The greater range and tankage give the MRTT an advantage over the KC-46A, Airbus will argue. These attributes were unimportant in the final KC-X competition, which was based on a pass-fail evaluation of what was called the Technically Acceptable, Lowest Price (TALP) competition. Only if Airbus and Boeing were within 1% of the prices bid would the MRTT’s greater capabilities be considered. Boeing won with a 10% lower bid—but, of course, the $5bn in write-offs may have made the win a pyrrhic victory.

What’s ahead

The competition, if LMA figures it can meet the new Buy American thresholds, is going to be fierce. It is also likely to be very ugly. Forget the Marquis of Queensbury Rules. This is almost certainly going to be a street brawl, just like the 10-year battle for the KC-X contract.


129 Comments on “Pontifications: Biden’s new “Buy American” policy may hit Lockheed Martin-Airbus plans to compete in KC-Y tanker bid

  1. When the buy American acts were first initiated, American products were plentiful and competition great in aviation. As Biden has also noted (in recent memos) competition is being restricted particularly in various technologies. It would there make Boeing the sole bidder in any new airframe KC-Y battle. Thus we would see yet another very expensive, late, and likely not fit for purpose product. Thus a simple solution is for Biden to combine the 2 thoughts and say that unless there is a qualified domestic US product all such competitions should be open to any provider as long as combined content did not fall below 40% US sourced.

    • I don’t disagree with the overall, but I think by the time the bidding comes up, the KC-46 will be fully in service with all its deficiency fixed.

      The 767 line has better numbers as is delivering Freighters as well as the KC-46 and its established, you don’t have to build or modify a facility.

      The other reality is commonality of tankers is a huge bonus fleet maint wise.

      The one Caveat is how useful the KC-10 is with its higher offload and how often is that used and is it worth a sub fleet (though in this case it would be a large one).

      Flip to that of course is more fuel use when you don’t need that extra capacity and the tables from the last round up said they brought back a lot of the fuel typically.

      That is a bunch of fighters fueling vs a C17 or a C5 and possibly B-52. Never heard anything about B1/B2 loads and ops

      • Difficult to forecast.

        I read that the KC-Y program was to replace KC-10s.

        USAF recently decided to park a substantial proportion of the KC-10 fleet.

        Recall that there are two types of KC-135s flying (using commercial model numbers for engines):
        – ones with equivalent of JT3D turbofan engines, as 707-320C airplanes had
        – ones with CFM-56 engines, as used on 737-300 and siblings

        USAF are replacing the first bunch with the KC-46A.

        The second bunch are much more fuel efficient, which reduces operating coast, increases loiter time to support fighters or increases range to accompany heavies, and increases fuel offload capacity (if plumbed and controlled to use airplane fuel as additional offload fuel).

        • Further to my recitation of the two versions of the KC-135 that differ greatly in fuel efficiency because of engines, the KC-46A replacing the less efficient bunch, and that USAF is parking a substantial proportion of its -10 fleet, I note that:

          ‘KC-Y’ is morphing into a ‘bridge’ between KC-46A and a future advanced tanker.

          https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/us-air-force-launches-kc-y-tanker-competition talks about stealth. A serious limitation to present tankers is the range of fighters puts the tanker close to hostilities. Was OK in Afghanistan/Iraq and Yugoslavia as US/NATO forces controlled the sky.

          And https://www.defensenews.com/air/2016/11/29/kc-y-competition-still-under-consideration-as-air-force-works-to-define-future-tanker-fleet/.

          If the KC-10 is still a desirable size for USAF, the A330 will be seriously considered, I suggest. Total fuel capacity of the KC-46A is only 12% greater than the KC-135, far below the KC-10 even considering effect of more efficient engines on fuel burn. (Quick source Wikipedia.) My understanding is the KC-10 was purchased to refuel heavy bombers, its total fuel capacity is not much more than a B-52’s..

        • On the side, USAF is talking about hiring civilian tanker services for training fighter pilots in the US. I suggest Airbus and partner should bid on that job, to demonstrate their big tanker. :-o)

          [Civilian tankers already refuel some US military operations, 707-320Cs with newer P&W JT8D-200 series engines. Omega Air is one operator. May be switching to newer airplanes. (Wing pods have been fitted to A310s for the Canadian Forces, who want to replace those aircraft.

          BTW, there are smaller tankers, including:
          – USN has long had them for carrier operations (today USN has F-18E/F with conformal fuel tank option and refuelling kit)
          – the C-130 is used to refuel helicopters
          US Marines and Navy have tended to use drogue refuelling not boom, modern big tankers usually provide both.

          • Canadians are smart. They know what’s a boondoggle and avoid.

          • Dunno what Pedro is on about, Canada will consider A330MRT and Kc-46A no doubt, Boeing’s scuzziness probably biased Canada toward Airbus.

            The A310s were a favourAir Canada to who they became surplus (Wardair failed in the marketplace, mergers and bailouts pushed them into Air Canada’s hands).

            CF’s B707-320Cs were aging – engine vintage for noise and fuel economy, most of them were resales by Boeing of airplanes built for Western Airlines. Speaking of resale possibilities in the thread on Boeing’s ‘inventory.

            Trivia: They were unusual in having Freon A/C systems not the usual air cycle systems, Western Airlines wanted more comfort for their pax in the hot areas of US and perhaps to the south.

          • I know because I follow this closely.

            Meanwhile U.S continues to ban international travellers including Canadians. Who is xenophobic??

      • The biggest issue not solved by than is that the KC-46 is not only 3-5 years late, but massively, massively over budget. Fair enough: that is for now all Boeing’s own expenses. But, when you will not have any competition on KC-Y, guess who will solving that issue for Boeing…

      • Note TW that:
        – USAF is parking a chunk of its KC-10 fleet
        – USAF plans to stop flying B-1x bombers

        B-2 is stealthy but it is costly to maintain the special coating, including has to be kept in air-conditioned hanger and stripped to inspect structure. (Which aids stealth, on top of basic shape.) Two were used against ISIS in Libya in 2017, 15 refuellings each in round trip from Missouri. !
        Entered service in 1997.

        US military does re-introduce mothballed aircraft, including:
        – a few F-117s are up to something
        – spending on upgrading U-2 especially avionics

        Replaced aircraft types sometimes have capability newer ones do not, apparently the case with fighters like F-15.

    • @Timothy O’Neil-Dunne

      Good observations

      The DoD has long complained about the mergers throughout every industry DoD relies on over the last generation resulting in over expensive and low quality products

      c.f. Kathleen Hicks, Pentagon, the Deputy Secretary of Defense


      Boeing is the only most flagrant example of this incompetence

      Biden does not understand this? You say he does, has noted this

      Then…. There is more PR in Buy America than there is in a Let’s be Efficient and Actually Try to Win a War campaign slogan?

      • Gerrard White:
        “There is more PR in Buy America than there is in a Let’s be Efficient and Actually Try to Win a War campaign slogan”
        That sums up the issue!

      • “There is more PR in Buy America than there is in a Let’s be Efficient and Actually Try to Win a War campaign slogan?”

        Recall one Secretary of Defense was a bear against bureaucracy, spoke to military academy students about that to get them started right. IIRC ordered military to get many more armored vehicles into Iraq NOW.

        (Appeared to succeed, but things were already being built and American country boys had cobbled up gun trucks with surplus parts armoured glass and panels off of scrapped vehicle. Statistics were misleading as well because a substantial proportion of weak Humvees were only used inside protected compounds.)

        A problem is getting attention at high levels to the size of a problem. When a British Columbia Minister of Forests found that people who helped fire fighting had not been paid a few months afterward he had 50 civil servants working a weekend to organize payments. (Examples were cafes in evacuated towns that stayed working to feed fire fighters and support people. The cafes had purchased food, for example.)

        Then the same MOF failed to prepare for the possibility of another bad forest fire season – failed to plan, failed to contract with enough resources air and ground, perhaps in part having a rosy fantasy that other jurisdictions would loan resources but reality is most in the west are also having a bad season, failed to use resources sitting idle like the big Martin Mars seaplane.

        • Here’s an interesting military technology and strategy story of:
          – the digging/research needed to invent something and make it work, including sorting through feasibility
          – the molasses and worse of military bureaucracy, which tragically failed to grasp a new threat until loss of ships, such as the large British one that Argentina took out with a missile
          – not paying attention to where weapons were sold (it is claimed the Brit ship’s systems were programmed to ignore the French missile, though that is strange as any missile headed toward you has to be a threat including because it could be accidental/rogue launch)

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nulka covers a system to defend against anti-ship missiles.

          The report linked from Other Reading is detailed, covering what I listed above and more.

  2. The A330 PW4172 engine is a bit different from the PW4062 of the KC-46A and they cannot be swapped. Airbus could move the whole A330 production to the US and make space for the A320neo successor Aircraft in TLS. It need to be a harbor town on the East coast like Mobile. Considering the shape Boeing is in the competition is more or less over and Boeing will get the job. Similar to when PWA was supported by government contracts for years before the PW1100G volumes picked up. Still to get all the A330 work into the US the government might split the buy and have a commercial operator fly the A330 MRTT in a version meeting all USAF spec’s (like airlines used by the CIA)

    • Claes:

      The PW4000 had a full range of application from the 767 /A330 up to the 777.

      Each a different size.

      Still might be of some benefit to the same general layout and familiarity.

      • the PW4062 would have to be certified on the A330. It’s not undoable but if the goal is to minimize cost, it would a barrier. The PW4172, though somewhat common to the PW4062, is no longer in commercial production.

  3. If the US gives the example, others will follow suit.
    The EU can now reciprocally stipulate that any government purchases with tax money should include similar percentages of EU content — there goes the F35!
    And since airlines in China are state-owned, China can now stipulate minimal percentages for Chinese content in commercial aviation products — bye bye Boeing (and, at a later juncture, Airbus).

    With every protectionist attempt that the US makes to tilt trade balances in its favor, it just shoots itself in another part of its body.

    • The EU can try.

      But not all the businesses have EU based production or delivery services.

      Do we have an EU Google?
      Do we have an EU Amazon Cloud?
      Do we have an EU Microsoft?

      • We could add a requirement for all software procured by gov agencies to be Linux compatible for starters. Over time that would at least open the choice to get rid of Microsoft Windows.

        • ” Over time that would at least open the choice to get rid of Microsoft Windows.”

          That is the most sensible ‘ solution’ re the windoze mess and cyber INsecurity that has been bugging the industry since the 90’s.

          But it aint gonna happen

          • Back in the 1980s the Japanese tried to develop the TRON processor, architecture and operating system A war of tariffs was threatened against Japan. So a US monopoly on tech and the resulting control of media and telecommunications was maintained. I daresay the American people themselves would have been better of had these tech/media monopiles not developed.

            We have seen what happened to Huawei. That wasn’t just about Huawei building a cell phone system in Iran it was about a global player that might become independent of US technology and was hard to eaves drop.

            The EU might be different They’ve shown willingness to take on Google and MS in some areas. However these two media companies are now far to powerful. They control the narrative, they even control history in the EU as they do the US, they can cancel a DNS server.

            Certainly Bombardier never stood a chance and the merger of its remnants with Airbus is the best outcome conceivable.

            Few nations have the natural mass except Russia hence cooperative ventures are needed in aviation as it tech.

      • @ Bob
        Not sure I understand your comment.
        All the software companies you mention — and many others — have sizeable operations in Ireland, for tax reasons. Ireland is in the EU.

        As part of the drive to increase its independence, the EU is driving an initiative to develop/improve its own cloud infrastructure. This process started after the cold shower that the EU got during the Trump era.

        The EU has three companies that make fighter aircraft: there’s no reason to purchase the F-35 other than a desire to (sort-of) standardize equipment across NATO. As we know, the F-35 is a technically troubled program, and its costs have ballooned. Added to Biden’s “Buy American” protectionism, there’s plenty of incentive to buy European alternatives to the F-35.

        • What is Pedro on about with “Whataboutism is rampant.”

          Sounds like a skipping record/CD.

          Aviation needs clear communication.

      • With MNCs, origin country flags don’t matter that much. All of these companies have servers in the EU.

        In fact, with GDPR (Art. 44 et seq.) processing of personalized data outside the EU is quite constrained. The company that I work for generally doesn’t do business with partners who cannot host servers here.

    • @Bryce

      This is small scale protectionism, some tiny attempt at onshoring, and state subsidy wrapped up in one package, but without the co2 reduction plans involved

      Am I wrong ?

      After lambasting such or similar-ish China practices as commie dead red for some time at last the US is, perhaps, seeking to extract some value by copying them

      But how to ensure rebuilding across so many products and industries for such little incentive ?

      a-The sums being talked about are hardly large enough to encourage/ensure that WS invest capital in industrial production of such scale as to provide the widgets required

      b-Fed regulatory control in US is not….great

      Perhaps the homegrown re labelling industry of foreign made stuff as US made will be boosted

      • @ Gerrard
        Of course it’s small scale — for now, at least.
        However, applying protectionist strategies in an industry (defense) in which you export far more than your import, is not a clever idea: all you do is encourage your customers to become equally protectionist, and there go your exports!

        • @Bryce

          This Fed act applies to all Fed buying, not just Defense, no?

          It’s supposed to be a national program across all industries, that is to say many in which on shore manufacture is limited if not derisory

          Defense is a lost cause – the US Defense industry is already dis functional according to the DoD, multiple complaints going back a generation, since Clinton

          The B-Is do not work, the B52 is too ancient, The Ford aircraft carriers do not work….and pride of place to non functional BA plane and the F35, etc etc

          Can not build aircarts nor boatcarts, nor missiles, they had an Aegis test the other day, the missilecarts were either dud or missed or both

          Via monopoly game mergers WS has financialised this destruction of efficiency while keeping DoD at bay with bloated prices, spending programs so vast that they give the impression they are ‘doing something’

          This leaves WS a free hand in China: Biden et al can bleat, but can not rely on warblabla being taken seriously, by either side

    • Well seeing as how France stipulated aid to Air France would help Airbus and Condor after receiving state aid bought Airbus, I’d say BAA would not be the first nationalistic decision made, despite that not being its goal. But you can continue to believe the EU is different if you’d like

      • @Zoom How about the KLM bailout? Are they switching from Boeing to Airbus?? Seems posters can only see what they want. Sigh.

        • you were correct…whataboutism is rampant. Pot-kettle-black.

      • @Zoom

        Who believes the EU is different from the US?

        But – EU does have, as you point out, more experience in state encouragement/subsidies/regulation

        So is, perhaps/probably, more efficient at

        As commentors above have pointed out, Biden’s plan, besides being self contradictory, and conflicting with DoD comments, is yet another designed to fail plan

        Failures – along with tariffs, Yellen says the other day these must be lifted they have cost the US so much, sanctions, and other protectionist policy failures

      • The $1.727B CoViD aid package that Southwest Airlines received from the US Treasury had — of course — no influence on its recent decision to order MAXs.

        A similar statement applies — of course — to Alaska Airlines, for which the US government support amounted to $992m.

        • This reference to COVID does not give permission to anyone to enter into a COVID debate. If this occurs, the Comments will be immediately closed.


          • Sorry: use of the “C” word was entirely unintended to provoke discussion…let’s just replace the term by “crisis”. The gist of the comment is unaffected.

          • Covid “[c]omments will be immediately closed…” Bravo!

    • @Bryce Congratulations! The world will finally enjoy peace after decades of war if USAF is saddled with fighters/tankers that aren’t flying.

      • @Pedro

        You beat me to it

        The point of the first comment by Timothy O’Neil-Dunne above is exactly that – consolidate the US arms industry to the point it is merely a financialised destruction of the MIC

        Even if this is expensive, it’s less expensive and damaging than fighting wars, and less harmful to national purpose than constantly losing them

  4. -I understand that the following may not apply to Military contracts “Buy American policy that American content must be increased from 55% to 60% immediately and ultimately 75%” but it creates a situation where for some products it is almost impossible to comply.
    -If President Trump had of done this…. oh I give up.

    -If it was desired to help Boeing wouldn’t it be best to develop a KC787?
    a/ Boeing would end up with a combi door freighter door barrel for the B787. b/ The USAF would end up with an aircraft with immense performance. It could probably offload 25 tons of fuel at 4000nmi operational radius.

    Like the freighter market maybe the use of end of commercial life designed airframes needs to come to and end and the USAF should try to comply to the equivalent of ICAO CORSIA. Supply of hydrocarbon fuels is set to become sparser and logistics does count in war.

    • There was ( and still is ) good reason why Rumsfeld back then did not go for Freedom Fries in military procurement.
      too much coming from abroad. sometimes rebadged with M.i.USA but nonetheless.

  5. Yes, it’s gonna be another bloody clash of the heavyweights, with no holds barred, for the KC-Y program all over

    For the complete and even the untold as well as forgotten parts of the KC-X tale, that lasted over a decade, would highly recommend the following:


  6. If this had been Trump there would be 90 comments and a far different tone to the story. Biden gets “unintended consequences”. Same results to Airbus, but no hair on fire.

  7. US is a bad customer.
    I would not put much effort into it to offer the A330, just something cheap to force Boeing to be cheaper.
    There are other markets Airbus should concentrate on.

    • Leon:

      Actually we are bad Hombres.

      Leonardo is likely happy with the TH-119 sales.

      Or the US Army and close to 500 UH-72.

      Delta loves Airbus.

  8. There are a number of deeper issues.

    The Europeans are still big purchasers of American Military Equipment. I do not think the reverse is the case. For instance Germany just purchased 8 P-8 Poseidon’s and 45 F-18 Hornets (for nuclear delivery. The F-18 decision was contentious since qualification of the Eurofighter Typhoon for nuclear
    weapons delivery would have been possible. It wasn’t just about work it was about autonomy. Most of the European nations don’t operate Typhoons but have F-16 and F-35.

    If Airbus doesn’t have a snowflakes chance in hell the inevitable result will be greater moves to European autonomy in military equipment, possibly of second rate aircraft.

    There are also SAM missiles etc.

    I think the use of pandemic aid loans should not be an influence on the tanker bid.

    Boeing Stalwarts Ryan Air received a 800 million package loan in the UK and non of it will go to airbus and there are clearly other cases. The Condor purchase of A330-900 likely was not biased and if it was would be an exception as the airline was already on the ropes beforehand along with Thomas Cook.

    This will need to be handled very carefully.

    I do not think Airbus will succeed given the need to keep Boeing going.

    I do not think that producing an ancient aircraft such as the KC46A will serve Boeing or the USAF nor an A330-200 ceo for that matter.

    • “European autonomy in military equipment, possibly of second rate aircraft.”

      The Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen are all “only” 4.5 generation fighters. The F-35 is a 5 generation fighter *on paper*…but it has so many shortcomings that the USAF has described it as “a failure”. Which would you prefer to be using in practice?

      And is Boeing’s KC46 Flying Lemon not the epitome of a “second rate aircraft”?

      • The reality (going off topic ) is that US Equipment works and European equipment tends not to (A330MRT aside and it took 5 years to get it in Full Operation Service per Australia.

        On the flip side Australia has dumped the Tiger helicopter and gone with M1 tanks (from Leopard) . The NH90 has been a constant headache and failure.

        Another reality is that Germany needed a Sub Hunter now, not a pie in the sky EU project that would convert an A320 to that setup 15 years from now. No one makes a P-8 equal or even close (not even the vaunted Chinese!)

        Now, Germany is obligated to a Nuke Fighter (yes that is stupid but there it is) and its pie in the sky that the Typhoon will someday be so rated (when? 20 years of arguing?)

        You will notice that France and Germany also are buying C-130. Dang if it does not work better for short nasty strips than an A400 (and hugely less costly if you loose one).

        And US equipment has the famous US logistics system we saw form in WWII and has continued to be phenomenal to this day.

        Unlike the Brits who hacked gaskets out of raw material, the US sent GASKET KITS with their aircraft. No more hand carving. And the powers that be help you if you don’t get a head gasket right!

        The F-35 certainly has its issues, but the Swiss compared it to the Grippen E, Typhoon and Rafale (European Aircraft) and they all came out second best by leaps and bounds (as did the FA-18).

        So even a problematic F-35 is better than European fighters.

        It does help to have a cohesive market, Europe makes like 5 Main Battle tanks (not counting the Russian and Ukrainians). M1 Sep 3 is still the King.

        You see we use the stuff, its not intended to sit around and look pretty or create jobs.

        • Two points
          -The Tiger helicopter was a disaster with operating costs per unit flying hour 3 times of the Apache, a spiral of death. However years of hard work have now made it deployable overseas.

          -There was no competition between Leopard IIA6 and the M1A2 tank for the ADF (?Australian Defence Force). The US had M1A2 surplus and offered them at bargain basement prices to the Australian Army.

          Leopard tanks work fine and guzzle 1/3rd less fuel plus have a L55 rather than L45 gun. The Tigers were immature and should not have been offered by EADS

        • Someone is painting a very rosy picture of the US military machine…




          Moral of the story:
          Better to use your own junk than to import junk from someone else: at least that way, you have more control over the junk, and you help support your own economy.

          • @Bryce

            This inevitably will happen

            Nordstream2 was a wake up

            The associated go get Russia nonsense ditto

        • “So even a problematic F-35 is better than European fighters.”

          In my book, a fighter that’s able to fly is leaps and bounds better than one sitting on the ground waiting for its engine.

          No wonder USAF wants to buy F15EX. The F35 was supposed to be a “cheap” solution, guess not.

        • With all these “great” weapons and “famous” logistics system, do they help to win the war over Afghan?? If not, what use?

          • You don’t win guerilla wars with military might (ask Napoleon!) Vietnam is another case in point.

            You do hope your stuff is good enough and in quantity that
            it deters others (no names to be mentioned) from taking over the world (Including Europe)

            Granted the US umbrellas has created a co-dependent situation.

          • IDK. I guess the current trend is the AF and Navy bankrupt themselves first before (no names to be mentioned) fires a bullet or drops a bomb.

          • “You don’t win guerilla wars with military might (ask Napoleon!) Vietnam is another case in point.”

            So no lessons learnt from Vietnam War??
            How soon would Americans go back to Kabul in current trend?? Seems (other guys) can’t wait … domino effect.

      • There is no doubt that various Europeans could produce a word class fighter, transport, helicopter, attack drones, SAM, AAM and ATS.

        The problem is do they have the willpower to push it through, in past times programmes have struggled receiving the support they need. The slightest budget over run being cause for cutting back production numbers or stretching out and delaying the program. That ultimately leads to higher unit costs and ultimately a weapon that is somewhat out of date. Missiles such as Meteor, MICA, IRIS-T (Russian inspired) are outstanding but then Trigat LR has a pathetic production number.

        These things happen in the US as well but nowhere to the same degree.

        A case in point being the low production numbers of the excellent A400M.

        The Panavia Tornado which came into service at the time of the F-15.
        The Typhoon with its funny Tornado tail (there wasn’t the money to develop its own tail) is excellent with its CAPTOR radar but it took so long.

        Then they are up against the Su 27 series (Su 32, Su 34, Su 35). Admittedly these aircraft have such long range they can attack Typhoon and F-35 within their refuelling range.

        • @ William
          The will (and budget) in the EU is increasing, and the mood has changed.
          The souring of old relationships is a wake-up call that it’s time to achieve greater defense self-sufficiency.
          The EU already spends as much on defense as China, and many times more than Russia, but spending is set to increase further in the coming years.
          With high-quality aerospace capabilities, it’s more than capable of producing what it needs…and creating/maintaining lots of jobs in the process.

        • Note the A400M against the C-130, C-17, and now the Brazilian C-something. C-130J has advantage of infrastructure and familiarity.

          (IMO the J is just a warmed over version of the C-130H and such. Lockheed didn’t even enlarge the tail thus it has a automatic thrust reduction system to reduce yawing moment whose quick onset might stall the fin, at least of the short model – the -30 stretch is partially aft of the wing which may help. (Tail more effective in general but may move faster, have to think that through.)

          But size of single-piece cargo is a major consideration, that’s why the C-17 and C-5 exist.

      • Keep in mind the desire for stealth, which the F-35 is supposed to be better at than the European competition. It was designed to be.

  9. I will argue that Airbus had its issues on the A330MRT as well.

    While most entities do not talk about it like the US does in public, we know Australia took 5 years to get full operation capabilities of the A330MRT, and its a lower spec tanker than the KC-46.

    That does not mean Boeing has not screwed up some basic things, the Vision system perhaps the worst that Airbus got right.

    Part of the boom ops was USAF specifications Boeing met and the USAF paid to correct.

  10. No change, Donald Trump was a hawkish Democrat (was Scott in WA when Scoop Jackson was a Senator)?

    Great cartoon in a newspaper decades ago:
    A castle turret with people on top.
    Textile industry saying that furriners must be kept out.
    Boeing person saying “They are our customers”.
    At that time half of Boeing’s commercial airplane production was exported.

    Xenophobic exploiters even managed to get plastic piping dug up in Camp Pendleton because they’d been imported from that terrible Canada place.

    (Protectionists are exploiters, behaving like Marxists though many claim to be capitalists – fixed-pie thinking.
    Many are of course hypocrites, using things like phones made overseas.

    Long has been the case, for example:
    – unions forced black-skinned conductors off of trains early in the twentieth century
    – unions conned politicians into believing that persons who test flew hastily assembled warplanes then ferried them across the stormy North Atlantic were not temperamentally suited to fly domestic passenger flights in the tame supported environment of the US. So thousands of women who wanted an airline career were denied it. (Puget Sound media have interviewed some living in the area in their old age.)

    • (was Scott in WA when Scoop Jackson was a Senator)?

      Nope, Illinois, PA

      • Right.

        Henry M. Jackson was a Democrat, but supported the military.
        (Which did suit the state of Washington, Boeing being a major proportion of the economy of WA in those days.)
        Against totalitarianism especially Communism, unlike many politicians today.
        Instigated a foundation to support research in medicine for military persons, in the NIH umbrella.
        Representative then Senator from 1941 to 1983 – when he died, he wanted to run for President but did not get far.

        • Being a Democrat even if in general agreement has nothign to do with US defense.

          The question is how much and the waste.

          • Um TW, many members of Congress are against defense, some attack US Allies (verbally), Libertarians are mixed, …. Defense is not a sure thing in today’s politics.

            And of course Democratic politicians in places like Portland OR and Seattle work against defending individuals against initiation of force. Especially stooopid of females like the mayor of Seattle as they re an extra target. Seattle police are losing many officers, some retiring as fed up, some moving to other police forces.

    • “No change, Donald Trump was a hawkish Democrat”

      I’d have to challenge that characterisation.

      Firsts a little preamble. Then I’ll get on topic.

      He spent much of his time firing hawks: such as Bolton, Mattis. When he left office he fired Hawks Madeline Albright and Henry Kissinger from the Pentagon, they were still there pulling strings. He fired of hundreds of cruise missiles (enriching Boeing in the process) but that was by way of appeasement of the hawks and avoiding the expensive expending ground war and occupation the hawks wanted as part of their middle east plans. These have a clear line from Bush Junior through to Obama-HRC era.

      I think he’s easy to understand. He wanted to reindustrialise the United States. Tariffs were part of the plan. He tended to see trade as something that should be bilaterally balanced rather than multilaterally balanced which is a bit basic in not seeing that for instance US deficits with China and Japan were balanced by US surpluses with other nations.

      The bluster and threats were all part of the ‘art of the deal’ of applying aggressive pressure and then getting to the negotiating table to strike a deal that works.

      It sometimes tended to be destructive of of relationships.

      The massive tariffs levied on Bombardier clearly were destructive.

      • Uh, William:

        POTUS Donald Trump supported military and tried to curtail aggressors, including:
        – the despot of North Korea who threatens peaceful societies like South Korea and Japan.
        – trying to get Middle Eastern countries to deal with local problems (having two very visible females with him in Saudi Arabia then flying direct to Israel which is traditionally a no-no)

        You define ‘hawk’ in a very narrow way.

        You bring in the red herring of trade.

        You bring in his negotiating style, which can be interpreted variously.


        (Yes, he had a problem of opening his mouth before putting brain in gear, and rambling on which confused people.

  11. As Claes says: Considering the shape Boeing is in the competition is more or less over and Boeing will get the job.

    Pacific requirements, capabilities, past performance and operation track record are not the most important factors at this stage. Boeing lawyers & congress will make sure those are not weighing in too much.

    I’m wondering how much effort LM and Airbus will put in. Of course they can offer a 251t GEN-X MRTT with superior capabilities. But why?

    • Keep in mind there are provisions to extend contracts once written.

      Reality is that the KC-46 will get fixed and unless there is a specification change that shifts the bid in favor of Airbus, the KC-46 makes a whole lot more sense than a split fleet.

      While US Equipment undergoes its crisis, like the C-17, once its fixed it can be outstanding. Sooner or latter Boeing will fix the KC-46.

      The F-35 won the bid in Switzerland. One of the aspects most do not know, in order to kit out a F-15 with the same jamming and penetration capabilities (electronic attack/defense) let alone stealth, an F-15EX costs more than an F-35.

      The third tanker contract is the one to keep an eye on and it will be neither a KC-46 or an A330 derivative.

      Something based off the B-21 for the USAF may be a possibility.

      The Navy is desperate for the MQ-25, they gave up their air to air fueling when they dumped the S-3. They have been using FA-18 as fuelers, that is truly insane waste of a fighter.

      • Value meals from fast food chain are good value!! Haha. No wonder American suffers a trade deficit problem.

        “However, the reality of military acquisitions and combat capability are far more nuanced than a side-by-side tale of the tape might represent. While the F-15EX may indeed cost more per airframe than the latest batch of F-35s, it may actually be the savvier purchase. The F-35 is intended to have an operational lifespan of around 8,000 hours, whereas each F-15EX is expected to last 20,000. In other words, in order to fly the same number of hours as an F-15EX, the Air Force would need to purchase not one, but three F-35As.”

        Only fools would believe a F35 is cheaper.

          • So the much newer Typhoon, Grippen E and the Rafale are worse than an F-15 that is now 45 years in service?

            Also the F-35 beat out the FA-18.

          • Then why the USAF so eager to buy a derivative from a 45 year old fighter. Waste of money??

            BTW WN UA & AS order hundreds of jets with a fuselage dates back 1960s: six decades.

            Enlighten me plz.

        • IMO it is misleading to compare lifetime of a well-developed aircraft and a new one.

          Typically life is extended with experience, sometimes by modifications, sometimes by new build. (Check the C-130 and B-52 for example.)

          Integration is good. ;-O

    • LM-Airbus might get some money to come up with an offer. The A330MRTT eventually needs to be updated/replaced and they can use the money, USAF specs and time to design an A330-800neo MRTT in their computer systems while waiting for EU to request a more fuel efficient and battle hardened MRTT (electronics and systems routing). LM probably will get some battle systems integration work with self defence missiles and maybe P-8 type of missiles and torpedoes while Airbus balances boxes and systems between Diehl/Rheinmetall, THALES and LM. With LM systems installed the US DOD can control its export approvals easier.

      • claes:

        US tankers fly under 900 hours a year on average, fuel efficiency is not high on the list.

        Equally Airbus has contracts for the current A330MRT.

        And the A330NEO has the RR engine which makes it a bust US content wise

  12. Seems to me – the combination of a ‘ navy’ remote refueling tanker and an ‘ airforce’ tanker would give boeing pretty much a lock on tankers for a long long time. For example

    Extending the carrier air wing reach. Boeing is bringing the future of unmanned aircraft carrier aviation to the U.S. Navy with the MQ-25. An unmanned aircraft system designed for the U.S. Navy mission, it will provide the needed robust refueling capability, thereby extending the combat range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C fighters.

    Hopefully in the next decade- Boeing can **properly** fix the cluster mess re the 767 based tanker. After all they have been “working ” on a 767 version tanker since 2000-2001.

    IMHO – “Illigitimi non carborundum” should apply .

    That was also the 1954-60 motto printed on the logo of the Firestone Missile Division Mechanical Test Lab – Wuz there .
    It had poor reliability and similar accuracy.

    JPL/Firestone SSM-A-17/M2/MGM-5 Corporal. The Corporal was the first U.S. guided missile system to be approved for nuclear armament, and the first operational guided missile of the U.S. Army.

  13. And there we go — a new trend is spreading:
    “China quietly sets new ‘buy Chinese’ targets for state companies – U.S. sources”

    “Sent to Chinese hospitals, companies and other state-owned buyers, the document sets local content requirements of 25% to 100% for 315 items. They include medical equipment, ground-based radar equipment, testing machinery, optical instruments; items used for animal husbandry; seismic instruments, and marine, geological and geophysical equipment, the former official said.”


    • It’s an unfortunate trend, yet not really surprising. Especially in the IT sector, China is basically forced to ramp up local technology as it got locked out of a whole range of products. To avoid similar problems in other, critical products, it was to be expected to favour local products instead of the best.
      It’s a bit like a pendulum. It always swings back. Global trade was probably a bit too much, so the trend is now going in the other direction. I fear, it will only be the beginning.

      • Yes, many human trends tend to oscillate back and forth.
        Globalization would have worked well in a harmonious mix of equals…but that’s not exactly what the international community is, is it?
        The present world crisis — and the supply issues attendant thereto — have been a cold shower. Trade wars were already weakening the foundations. And now large-scale de-coupling has started (in the financial world, this was already triggered by the 2008/2009 financial crisis).

  14. The 6+billion Delta received for COVID relief will all go to pay Airbus for Aircraft order. We should have behave like France.

    • Did France, or a French company, place a recent significant aircraft order?
      I know an Irish airline that recently placed a large Boeing order.
      Condor is German.

      Delta last month purchased 29 used 737-900ERs…so it’s doing its bit to support BA 😏
      And Delta’s AB narrowbodies are assembled in the USA.

      • Daveo:

        A good chunk of Airbus aircraft is US sourced.

        40 years ago we could split out supply chains, that is no longer true.

        Its a good idea in key industries to have it in US or allies, but some of that is simply gone.

        We never trusted the IEEC stuff, built to minimal standards vs NEMA that was over built. One European company had to replace all its IEEC contactors with NEMA for the control panel.

        The equipment itself was good. It was a good blend with NEMA in it (a bit crowded as the IEEC stuff was smaller but we could live with that for the reliability.

    • @Daveo

      US lacks the means to dictate to private companies in these situations

      Its called ‘free market forces’

      You may have noticed that regulation is remiss, especially FAA, that’s the same notion at work

  15. I thought we got do discuss the 767F today?

    • Just reading all the posts, and that Boeing B787-8 might just be the smart ticket. But the real smart comments questioned how much the armed forces really need right now. All these F-35s. That’s right I forgot, China is getting ready to invade its biggest customer…

    • If you were a paid subscriber, you could. The 767 is behind the paywall.

      • Scott:

        Thank you, you was mentioned on the open side and implication seemed to me to be open side as well.

        Sadly I have to watch the Schekels and even Av Week is when they offer a big discount (and no, I don’t expect that from a firm that has to make its living the way you do)

  16. “American content must be increased from 55% to 60% immediately and ultimately 75%.” It is to be hoped that Biden avoids his predecessor’s hypocrisy of standing alongside final assembly of the 787 with all its international (read “foreign”) partners’ content while proclaiming “America first, America only, America always…”.

    • Why don’t you call out cheapskate BA for moving jobs overseas???

    • Trump tweets with his American-made phone. Who’s kidding.

  17. I see people already playing down cargo capability, range, offload, mission flexibility. Without caring about developing operational requirements.

    The KC10 is a bit oversized anyway, isn’t it? Making this look like a fair competition is going to be a challenge.. Congress will make sure USAF sets “realistic” requirements, again.

    • The KC-10 is not oversized for refuelling B-52s.

      Check figures for both, instead of guessing.

      (Physical footprint on the ground was a factor in favour of the KC-46A in the KC-X competition to replace older KC-135s, ramp area and hangers, obviously USAF handled the KC10 adequately.)

      • The USAF has run the KC-10 until its pretty well unsupportable.

        As their MO is to dump anything that is not big and fancy (and go for bigger as illegal as it was in the A330MRT bid) the KC-10 has filled a slot.

        It might in fact be a slot the A330MRT could fill better than the KC-46 taking advantage of that fuel offload.

        I don’t think we will see it but its there and its well supported for a long time to come.

        KC-135 is doing ok with the new engines and upgrades to the rest but that is a fleet of 400 so there are cost offsets on numbers

    • KC10 need most of its fuel to get to places. a fuel guzzler.

      • I continue to be amazed at the ignorance (lack of knowledge) expressed on some subjects.

        • nothing over the lack of basic RRR skills shown by select posters 🙂

      • Uwe:
        Your facts and figures about the KC-10 are what?

        What is KC-10 engine technology compared to KC-135R?

        USAF has wanted to replace the KC-10, there are many considerations.

  18. Of universal aviation interest — BA gets some more barbing from the FAA:

    “Boeing, under intensifying regulatory scrutiny after the fatal MAX crashes, has been directed by the Federal Aviation Administration to rework its flight manuals for both the 777X and MAX 10 to include detailed emergency pilot procedures.”

    “In the latest development, spelled out in a July 12 FAA letter to Tom Galantowicz, head of the internal Boeing organization that handles certification of new jets, the FAA requires Boeing to rework the airplane flight manuals for both jets to include more detail in checklist format on the emergency pilot procedures.”

    “Boeing’s original certification plan proposed that the FAA should delegate to Boeing all the decisions on what details will be in the airplane flight manual. The FAA rejected that proposal.”


    • @Bryce

      Great link

      Shows how much BA have not changed, can not change, have not learned nothing

    • 1) “Boeing’s original certification plan proposed that the FAA should delegate to Boeing all the decisions on what details will be in the airplane flight manual.”

      Proof that can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Maybe FAA changed, but definitely not BA.

      2) BA’s EIS schedule always looks optimistic. No wonder Tim Clark has to let off some steam. 🤔

      3) Time for Faury to give a call, may be they can find a solution.

  19. Gerrad White:
    What on this planet does a natural gas pipeline have to do with airplanes?

    (If on that topic, Russia does supply much NG to western Europe but there are and will be more pipelines from the Middle East. One by Israel and neighbouring state from adjacent sea will be a major advance.

    Might even be NG in western Europe, facing is a debate in Britain but I don’t remember if the reservoirs are oil of gas, often both occur in the same area.

    No shortage of NG in the world, Canada and US are a dollar late and a dollar short exporting it in liquid form by tanker.)

    • @ Keith Sketchley

      What on this planet does your comment below have to do with airplanes?

      “Henry M. Jackson was a Democrat, but supported the military.
      (Which did suit the state of Washington, Boeing being a major proportion of the economy of WA in those days.)
      Against totalitarianism especially Communism, unlike many politicians today.
      Instigated a foundation to support research in medicine for military persons, in the NIH umbrella.
      Representative then Senator from 1941 to 1983 – when he died, he wanted to run for President but did not get far.”

      • And how many of your comments have nothing to do remotely with the topic on hand (see spiral off into never never land per the A350F 10 minute Podcast)

        • But I’m not going around telling other people that they’re off topic, am I?
          And what’s this alleged “spiral off into Never Never Land” with regard to the podcast? The subject of Boeing possibly circumventing the ICAO emission limits was raised by Scott in the podcast…dis you miss that?
          Please enlighten us.

    • Keith – “No shortage of NG in the world…” And isn’t rather a lot of it under Akbar al-Baker’s backyard?

    • @Keith Sketchley

      What does NG have to do with aircarts?


      Mr Hamilton’s post is about Biden’s Buy America policy, one not uniquely restricted to airplanes

      You can read the White House PR, lonked (oops)

      Nor is his Policy unique to domestic consumption, he’s pushing Buy America ’round the world, especially with regards to NATO and EU – (following his predecessor Pres)

      One notable try on with EU was his gas

      Hence Nordstream2 plus other gibbets EU have been tussling with US

      EU too is decoupling – the old alliances and shared values and the rest dissolving in the new hogwash – like playing Peter and Paul

      Protectionism and militarisation are dots on the same short straight line

      I hope this has helped

      (Your typos are fun, catchy)

    • LNG by ship can compete with NG pipeline??

      When does the sun rise in the west?

      • Pedro said:
        “LNG by ship can compete with NG pipeline??”

        Who said it could?

        But actually you overlook that pipelines are not crossing wide oceans nor going to multiple ports when they do cross seas. Reality is that much LNG is exported by ship out of the Middle East.

  20. No way to put US taxpayers money in foreign OEM pockets especially in the case of European heavily subsidized Airbus.

    Every American should remind that idea of Airbus was launched by Charles De Gaulle with the only purpose of breaking the US aerospace industry.

    It’s already a big mistake that the USCG is flying a few dozens HH-60 Dolphin, the US Army more than 400 UH-72A Lakota, the US Naxy Test Pilot School a few UH-72A and NASA 3 UH-72A.

    I hope USAF will never fly a single Airbus tanker or Airbus A400M.

    • Philippe – “No way to put US taxpayers’ money in foreign OEM pockets, especially in the case of European heavily subsidized Airbus.” Do you mean that U.S. travelers should not buy foreign vacations and spend U.S.$ once through immigration control (albeit perhaps O.T.T.)?

      • Ban all international flights. No more MX/Caribbean holidays.

        … BA went bankrupt the next day.

  21. I’m laughing at Embraer’s construction of a gravel runway to test the C-390 on, as I presume Brazil is full of such.


    Long ago I had the good experience of watching a B737 operate from a grass runway.
    Boeing looked all over the US for a grass runway to test on, in preparation for selling airplanes to fly into the Tasmania part of Australia.
    Finally someone peeked into Canada and saw that there is a grass runway not far west of Hope BC in the upper reaches of the Fraser Valley. Checked it out and scheduled testing, 737 prototype with gravel runway kit as we used regularly into the High Arctic.
    Transport Canada was willing despite experimental registration, but radio licensing bleepocrats gave Boeing difficulty over its comm trailer and eventually got out of the way.
    A marvellous sight, especially the airplane going out of sight behind a large hill turning onto final approach course.
    Boeing got data but the runway was softer than the one in Tasmania, bracketed the range I guess but too soft for the nosegear ski. (Boeing had their own tool to measure bearing strength of unpaved runways.) Privately owned runway.

    Media in Hope got wind of the operation, perhaps as the airplane could be seen from the freeway.

    • Yea I saw that, make a mess and why? Convenient to the airport apparently.

      And now the Brazil order is cut in half.

      Maybe not as competitive against a Herc as they thought?

  22. Keith sketchly said somewhere …” I’m laughing at Embraer’s construction of a gravel runway to test the C-390 on, as I presume Brazil is full of such.: and then went on to describe efforts on 737 re gravel runways.

    In the mid 60’s as Boeing was bidding on C-5 and developing 737 and SST and . . . .

    To check ability to land on ‘ soft’ runways, the attached NON retractable multiple bogy landing gears on dash 80- flew it slowly down to mohave ‘ partly dry’ lakebed and prepared a ‘ soft ‘ landing area- such that it took a 4wd to run on it. landed the dash 80 on it and after a bit of towing to get up off the final stop pile, took off. There are films of this by boeing somewhere in the archives. I forget the measurement used for softness but it related to a CBR or California Bearing Ratio for unpaved roads.

    • I am quite familiar with operation of B737 airplanes on gravel runways, and with Boeing’s method of testing firmness back when.

      Pacific Western, Nordair, and several other airlines did so in the 70s and 80s.

      My amusement was having to make a test gravel runway when so many are around. But I noted they can make it to certain characteristics, probably vary those characteristics to get data over a range.

  23. Comments are closed. Comments are veering off topic too much.