Pontifications: Looking ahead to a major Defense procurement: Boeing vs Lockheed-Airbus

By Scott Hamilton

May 23, 2023, © Leeham News: Decisions by the US Air Force in Washington (DC) on whether to require competition for its next round of aerial refueling tanker aircraft are still months away.

But so far, the USAF technical group at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton (OH) is proceeding as if there will be a competitive battle. At stake is an order for more than 160 tankers.

Boeing thinks this will be a sole-source, follow-on order for its KC-46A, based on the commercial 767-200ER. Lockheed Martin Co (LMCO), partnering with Airbus, wants to see a version of the Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), based on the commercial A330-200.

So far, the secretary of the Air Force publicly said he is leaning toward a sole-source follow-on order.

I visited LMCO last month to talk about the tanker competition. We also talked about the C-130J and its new commercial model, as well as other defense programs.

Sordid history

The USAF tanker procurement to replace the ancient Boeing KC-135s has a sordid history. Following the 9/11, 2001, terrorist attacks using airliners in New York and Washington (DC) (and a failed effort that ended in Shanksville (PA)), Boeing’s airliner business was devasted. At the time, Boeing’s principal business was dominated by US airlines. A prolonged fall off in passenger travel decimated the carriers, and with it, Boeing’s airliner business.

Boeing proposed leasing 100 tankers based on the 767 to the Air Force for 20 years. The idea was not new, but it had never been done before. Boeing offered a price, terms, and conditions that drew fire from US Sen. John McCain. McCain, a member of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, uncovered misconduct by the lead USAF procurement officer and Boeing’s chief financial officer. Both went to jail and Boeing CEO Phil Condit—who was not implicated—resigned.

This contract was canceled, and a new procurement process began. Airbus Group (then known as EADS) teamed with Northrop Grumman to compete for the contract. In a surprise, the USAF awarded the deal to Northop. The Air Force’s debrief to Boeing revealed that during the procurement process, the USAF changed some of the requirements—but didn’t tell Boeing while telling Northrop. Boeing protested and won. A third round of procurement was undertaken. This time, Airbus went alone after Northrop decided to pass on the bidding process.

This time, the Air Force parameters required the Lowest Price, Technically Acceptable LPTA) procedure. If the bids came within one percent of each other, then the extra range, refueling, and cargo capabilities of the MRTT would be considered. Under pressure from US Rep. Norman Dicks of Washington State, Boeing dropped its price. Its bid was 10% below Airbus, and the KC-46A was the winner.

Boeing’s performance

The contract for 179 tankers was a fixed price. Boeing’s very low bid eventually resulted, so far, in about $6bn in excess costs and charges. Deliveries were 18 months late, and the remote vision boom still doesn’t work right.

Meantime, Airbus sold its MRTT to every country seeking a tanker, except Japan and Italy, which had the first eight tankers designed for the 2001 Air Force procurement, and Israel, which politically remains close to the US. Airbus had its own issues initially with its refueling boom.

But the US market is the largest in the world for refueling tankers. And LMCO and Airbus are making another go at winning a portion of the business. A production line will be created at Airbus’ Mobile (AL) aerospace facility. Militarization of the airplane will take place at Lockheed facilities in Marietta, GA.

New competition

When it comes to the prospect of a new, competitive race between Boeing and LMCO in the coming procurement, requirements, cost, operating performance, and risk factors will be considered. But the first hurdle comes down to the sole source of competition.

Boeing makes the good case that commonality and fleet simplicity are critical factors. Lockheed, which is taking the lead while Airbus operates in the background, makes the case that with a large fleet size, commonality isn’t a critical factor. Having two fleet types also de-risks the risk factor. LMCO points to Boeing’s undeniably spotty performance in the KC-46A program.

LNA’s paywall yesterday detailed our interview with Lockheed.

Future articles will discuss the C-130J, the engineering shortage, and other issues.

363 Comments on “Pontifications: Looking ahead to a major Defense procurement: Boeing vs Lockheed-Airbus

  1. A tanker competition is, of course, a great idea for the USAF, because it will kill any plans that BA might have to get cocky on pricing.

    Also a win-win situation for LM and AB, because they just lower pricing to a point where they know that BA will incur more losses — thus further weakening a competitor. It’s more-or-less a foregone conclusion that BA will be awarded the contract — not only for political/nationalistic reasons, but also because it’s one of the few ways in which Uncle Sam can give some “support” to BA.

    • This is a post insert. I think its Defense topic (F-35) though clearly not the KC program or bids. Certain parties made a lot of claims on the subject and I think its a stark example of jumping to conclusions. Here are the facts of the South Korean F-35 loss.

      “According to local media, Air Force officials have faced a difficult dilemma regarding repairing one of the broken F-35s, which collided with an eagle during takeoff and was severely damaged.

      In 2022 the jet took off from a Korean military airfield in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province and was flying at an altitude of 330 meters when an eagle collided with it.

      According to the Air Force, the big bird went through the jet’s bulkhead and was sucked into the machine’s left vacuum pump, destroying hydraulic pipes and electricals for the jet’s landing gear.

      The pilot, with the landing gear destroyed, had to make a belly landing, which requires skilled maneuvering for a successful touchdown without destroying the plane. After emptying the fuel tank in midair, the pilot managed to bring the jet down to Seosan Airbase in South Chungcheong Province. No human casualties resulted from the accident.”

      I edited out all but the collision aspects as those are the core relevancy. So there it is. Likely it will be turned into spare parts due to the extent of the damage.

  2. “But the US market is the largest in the world for refueling tankers”

    Big, slow, sitting-duck tankers may have been useful when fighting against bearded shepherds with AK47s, but one can seriously question their value against more powerful adversaries equipped with cutting-edge long-range/hypersonic missiles.
    Is there anyone in Washington who questions how wisely/relevantly defense money is spent?


    • Good point. And the same rationale applies to other programs, and of course any replacement for the F-22…

    • In combat, the tankers are essentially range extenders for things like stealth aircraft, or enabling super long range missions for planes not stationed anywhere near the theater of operations. Manned combat aircraft are not as universally necessary as they were in an era before UCAVs and drones, but they still have important, if diminishing roles.

      • RTF:

        While tankers are range extenders, its not a given they are super long range let alone stealth (kind of hard to have stealth mission if a big RCS tanker is on the radar screen).

        All jet fighters deal with range limitations. Some are pretty good (F-15/F-16) but almost always they carry drop tanks (or conformal on F-15/16).

        Its really a matter of weapon load out and fuel and much like passengers vs baggage and or freight, you have to make trade offs.

        What has made this the issue it is would be the changing combat situation with loner range missiles, longer range adversary aircraft and their own fueling assets.

        The F-35 has its own set of issues because it has range limitations that should not have had so you need tankers and closer than the USAF wants.

        That situation has some ways to mitigate it but it has its challenges and counter measures if they fail has serious consequences.

        Its a highly complex situation.

        • @TransWorld Indeed. I think your points here are spot on, especially the complexity part.

          There is room for a bit of humor around the part of the complexity though. If they did the obvious as I suggested, which is to reconfigure the flying boom refueling part of the KC-46 to the KC-767 configuration, which already has its design work done, there would be no need for a bridge or next gen tanker procurement round in the near term. Again, keep one in the current config as a dev platform, or two if the Air Force want one and they want to keep one parked in St. Louis (I mean flying out of St. Louis 🙂 ). That would check all of the current mission requirements boxes.

  3. Doesn’t Airbus also make the claim that while the 767 can be compeitive for EMEA ops, it falls behind for PAC ops?

    • Woody:

      I don’t know its so much a claim as its in its mission set that the A330MRT has better off load at longer ranges.

      Like all that data, the KC-46A can offload less and carry out to longer ranges.

      Its an impossible one to say in real terms what it means as it all depends on the strike package size as well as what bases the tankers operate out of.

      In theory you could do a Hawaii to Woody Island strike but how many tankers you would need to manage fuel for a package like that has not been ever listed.

      To keep an apples to apples, the USAF uses a tool that uses historical data for strike packages but its an average, not a given for any Pacific (pun) one.

      There are also the weapons set that are carried by the fighters (or bombers) and what the standoff range for those is.

      And none of it accounts for the USN and its subs that can launch strike package of cruise missiles.

      So knock out the radar systems and your tankers can operate closer to a target.

      The A330MRT is a bigger target (it may not matter) but the KC-46A has counter measures that the A330MRT does not. I can get them, but it was a USAF spec.

      The Cargo deck on the A330MRT is wasted in tankers case and that is a point I have made all along, you pay for that capability but if you are going to be a tanker you can’t use it.

      • Lockheed can install any USAF ‘secret sauce’ electronics they need into the A330 based tanker.
        I dont think you have noticed but the KC-46 also has a large forward cargo door and photos show the main deck with all the rollers etc for ..wait for it… cargo pallets . Is that ‘wasted’ too ?
        The USAF even promotes its “MRTT” ability alongside its ‘electronics fit out’

        ‘The KC-46A can accommodate a mixed load of passengers, aeromedical evacuation and cargo capabilities. ……. Depending on fuel storage configuration, the aircraft can carry a palletized load of up to 65,000 pounds of cargo. The KC-46A can carry up to 18 463L cargo pallets. Seat tracks and the onboard cargo handling system make it possible to simultaneously carry palletized cargo and passenger seats in a variety of combinations. The KC-46A is also equipped with a number of self-protection, defensive and communication features making it more survivable in a contested environment.’

        • Duke:

          Its not a matter off adding on systems, no question it can be done. But it takes time and its not a slam dunk as you have to ensure there is not interference with other systems.

          Having it designed in as well as designed for future integrations is huge. The A330MRT has added systems but its never been done as an integrated approach. Its add one here and another one there depending on what the customers wanted (and most not at all)

          And yes, I am perfectly aware of the Cargo door and cargo handling system on the KC-46A. While it can be useful, if you are running tanker tracks its a waste and its not useful a majority of the time.

          Other countries find the A330MRT cargo capability useful but its under the floor and not nearly as easy to manage as a main cargo deck. Other countries as was noted want to maximize the use and the US operates discrete groups in areas that are tanking.

          Its the reason the USAF did not put in Cargo as an adder. The US has 3 different ways to get cargo around.

          • Read the USAF fact sheet again. The KC-46 is cargo capable – from the beginning. The tanker capability was the primary while airlift cargo was one of a number of secondary capabilities in the Dec 2007 RFP
            You seem to not accept the evidence and prefer your own information based on ..?

            It would seem the other ‘difficulties’ with some electronics are equally something that you have made up.
            I imagine the E-7 Wedgetail project on the 737 will also need these USAF specific changes( as the plane is currently for allies only ) but it will happen in due course.

          • Duke:

            I thought I was using plain American. What about the fact that I am not only well aware of the Cargo capability on the KC-46A do you not get?

            FYI, the KC-135 has that as well. Also includes the odds and sods stuff that you can’t do while tanking.

            What you clearly fail to comprehend is the USAF stations tankers in regions and they don’t fly back and forth to the US. Some are TDY and some are a permanent station that rotates squadrons (Spain and Eilson in Alaska are two examples)

            I suggest you actually read what I wrong and have been writing for many years.

          • This is what you wrote :
            ‘The Cargo deck on the A330MRT is wasted in tankers case’

            Its not wasted if the competition has it too and the customer USAF actually requires a cargo capability

            Thats its ‘not used’ when tanking is specious, as its just there – the
            actual cargo pallets are a liability if not used but cargo doesnt work like that

            What you havent mentioned but likely know is that the A330 has belly cargo space as well as the main deck. The original fuel requirement for the KC-X meant it could be carried in wings while the 767 had to use most/all of its belly space for fuel
            The KC-Y should require more fuel offload- but will likely written around the KC-46 which was written around the KC-135 which when built only tanked the B-52

          • Duke:

            You continue to try to change the statements.

            As far as the USAF specs were concerned, cargo was purely secondary and was not given an offset.

            The A330MRT does not have main deck cargo, it does not have a cargo door.

            What is relevant for this discussion is that its now the range of fuel offload.

            Boeing bid the contract based on the specs and tanks in the belly are a given on that.

            The core issue is that does the A330MRT and its higher costs offer something that can be adjusted for.

            85% is good enough in most cases and there is no such thing as 100%.

            Add to the issues program delays and a break in KC deliveries vs replacing the KC-135R fleet that was the goal in the first place.

            It all can be argued and disagreed with, I don’t believe the facts support doing anything more than exte3nd the KC-X and start looking at the KC-Y.

            A 6th Gen fighter with far better range is easy enough once you quit trying to make a VTOL out of the fighter. That in turn may change the equation.

  4. With China being a new adversary, the additional pacific capability of the LMXT should be fully considered, not dismissed IMO.

    IMO LM should consider involving GE to supply GENX engines, further boosting payload-range by 10-12%, support GE and create local jobs.

    And have the 330F cargo door & floor, providing efficient cargo capacity and extending C17 life.

    Superior operational value over the purposely political fabricated 2010 LPTA procedure.

    • keesje:

      All the changes you are advocating add cost to what is already going to be a much costlier aircraft for procurement.

      The engines alone are a huge and costly change. Better the Trent 700 (which was a reliable engine and beat out GE)

      Adding features and still trying to meet USAF specs is a major cost escalation that is not going to fly (and the cost of the A330MRT to US specs would be a lot more than the KC-46A)

      While I do not dismiss looking at the A330MRT, from a studied background of military ops and equipment, you have to take a hard look at what it brings to the fight.

      Is there enough there to offset the downsides?

      And the US has access to the Civilian Reserve Fleet to relieve any airlift issues.

      The C-17s are kept active doing work but also training crews.

      • @TW
        You’ve made a couple of claims in your 2 posts that in my opinion, based on available data an information, are Red herring that you keep posting when ever the tanker issue comes up.
        1. Electronic counter measures – Who says the Airbus doesn’t have counter measure suites? Anyway, in any bid I am sure the USAF will specify what suite it wants and that can easily be installed in the Airbus, so I am very sure a that the LMXT will include an approved USAF suite.
        2. Note that the Current Boeing tanker offering is $6 billion over the original bidding Price and still counting. The current Airbus offering as operated by Singapore Air Force with a both boom and drogue, working automatic cameras systems probably costs (Unit cost) less than the USAF tankers once you factor in that $6 billion cost overran.

        Just my 2 cents that in my view negates your standard talking points on why the Airbus is not suitable for the USAF requirement.

        • But notably the $6B is development cost and the USAF has no exposure.

          The production cost of the KC-46 is lower than the MRTT, based on pricing Boeing has offered to Japan and Italy. Not sure about Israel pricing as it’s bound up in military aid.

          Boeing says they have potentially 40 foreign orders for the KC-46.

          • @Rob
            Are you therefore telling us that in the new Y bid Boeing will keep it’s price the same and continue to incur that losses on the program it has been incurring for the existing bid?

            I don’t think so. Also for a large order of 160 units I am sure Airbus could keep it’s price at the old quote when it lost or lower it knowing that it has the airframe in commercial production and thus can push it’s supply chain to lower costs. With a USAF order (assuming a win) Airbus would have orders for about 400 A330s (ceo and neo) on its current order book and note that most of the fixed cost on the CEO has already been recovered from past sales.

          • As explained here previously, the $6B are development losses. They are not production losses. The more production Boeing has, the better the opportunities to offset the development loss. That’s why they want to get KC-Y as a follow on to KC-X. And are pursuing foreign sales.

            As things stand now. Boeing needs the lifetime value of the KC-46 contract to reach $60B to $70B, to erase the losses. That would be 400 aircraft assuming fixed price is retained, and no other revenue from upgrades, servicing, or maintenance, over the 50 year life of the program.

            When that income is included, it’s definitely within the range of possibility.

            If you are saying that Lockheed can deliver the LMXT at $150M each, then that would be competitive with the KC-46 on purchase cost. But still not on operational costs, which dominate the lifetime costs.

          • Branaboy:

            Airbus did not make a KC-Y to US specs, Boeing has .

            The USAF recognized that electronic counter measure were going to be required and they were built into the system, not added on.

            There are other systems that the USAF specified that are built in.

            Plug and play is vastly better than ad hoc add on. Airbus never built a standard A330MRT, each country has its own specs, starting with basic coms to some latter ones Airbus made optional.

            So yes, the USAF has what they wanted and that is an integrated system and now they can and are adding to it.

            Lastly you clearly do not understand US Procurement. The USAF can elect to extend the original KC-X agreement if the pricing remains the same (there would be adders if they ask for more equipment or features that were not in the original).

            So, the 6 billion is meaningless to the US and the USAF. Its a Boeing issue.

            Boeing hopes to make money on support and if they get the extension on the KC-X contract, they can cover that 6 billion in more hulls.

            Flip is that it would take Airbus years to build a current US spec tanker and it would have its own development hurdles. Both the RAAF and the SAF had teething issues that took 5 years to overcome, and that was on a basic tanker.

            So, at best there would be a several year gap with the A330MRT and Boeing would no longer be delivering KC-46A leaving a bigger gap in tankers (and we are already short of replacing the KC-135R fleet and the KC-10 is being retired).

            A A330MRT would cost a lot more and Boeing would bid higher. Airbus wants its profit and LM wants its profit and that means much higher costs.

            What major capability does an A330MRT bring to offset that and is it worth it for the not just the aircraft cost, but fuel and a second non conforming fleet?

          • @Branaboy

            Rob is incorrect here, but continues to repeat the same thing:

            Losses on the KC-46 program

            “During the year ended December 31, 2022, we increased the reach-forward loss on the KC-46A Tanker program by $1,374 primarily reflecting higher production and supply chain costs partially driven by labor instability and supply chain disruption, most of which was recorded during the third quarter of 2022.”


            I stress “higher production and supply chain costs ”


            The reach-forward loss on the KC-46A Tanker program increased by $245 million during the first quarter of 2023 primarily
            due to the cost of rework that was identified as a result of supplier quality issues

            During the year ended December 31, 2022, we increased the reach-forward loss on the KC-46A Tanker program by $1,374. During the three months ended March 31, 2023, we increased the reach-forward loss on the KC-46A Tanker program by $245 resulting from factory disruption and additional rework due to a supplier quality issue.


            Production costs.


            Boeing Losses on KC-46 Tanker Top $7B

            With more than 70 percent of the planned fleet already ordered, the plane remains a financial burden.

            The Arlington, Virginia-based company said it lost another $245 million building the KC-46 in the first three months of 2023. The losses were due to a “supplier quality issue resulting in factory disruption and rework,” the company said in a statement.

          • @Frank
            I know @Rob and @TW are wrong in their assertions but just can’t be bothered to engage them in long winded posts that get us no where.

            As best as I can recall the 2011 Boeing tanker win was priced at US$35 billion for 179 completely equipped airframes to whatever standard was stipulated in the USAF tender. That made unit cost around approx. US$195 million. The Airbus bid was said to be 10% higher and therefore would imply that that bid was approx US$38.5 billion (unit cost for 179 airframes would be approx US$215 million).

            Now with cost overruns of US$ 6 billion (charges already booked by Boeing) that for me means the contract delivery price by boeing is currently at US$41 billion (Boeing off course “eating” the cost overrrun – shows up as losses on the program- meaning Boeing financed that out of its own pockets be it from borrowings or its cash reserves etc,) that makes the unit cost for the 179 order approx US$ 229 million.

            Sure the contract being a fixed priced contract means that the Air Force pays the approx US$195 million per unit price for this 179 order. Going forward @Rob and @TW must remember that the pricing was set back in 2011 when the contract was awarded and since then we have had inflation so pricing cannot be at that 2011 pricing.

            Also @Rob says Airbus can only win the pending order under the KC-Y bid if it’s unit price is in the region of US$150 million. I don’t know where he get’s that number from but I will play along with him in the following scenario.

            The Airbus A330-200F airframe on which the MRTT is based has a list price of around US$245 million while the A330-800NEO has a list price of approx. US$259 million. Now if my list pricing is correct, Airbus can deliver airframes to Lockheed for approx US$100 million per unit with a 60% discount (figure that we are told in the forum Boeing regularly gives to customers to win orders for its narrow bodies), because they desparately want to win the 160 unit order to increase the A330 orderbook and thus use it to push their supply chain to lower the costs of shipments to Airbus.

            Without knowing what Boeing will bid this time (since all cost overruns have been fully charged on Boeing’s balance sheet), I will assume they will keep their pricing the same at US$195 million per unit. I don’t see why the Lockheed / Airbus cannot meet that price point.

            @TW ‘s goings on about the Electronic Suite I find amusing. MRTTs in service, there are about 70, all have different electronic suites (I am certain the Aussie units have different Suite sets than those of Singapore which in all probability will be different from the French, which in turn will probably be different from the UK fleet and so on). I don’t know what would be so difficult about installing the USAF specified Suite, especially when the Airbus 2011 quote of US$215 million per unit would have included the USAF specified Suite.

            Anyway I have ended up doing what I said I didn’t want to do, that is do a long winded response. Apologies to readers in the forum. Also sorry for not providing links to my numbers etc.. just too tired and lazy but a quick use of Google search engine should turn up the numbers I have used.


          • Branaboy:

            The truly is the ultimate in cop out, I can prove it but don’t feel like it.

            What has been written is true.

            You also fail to list the fuel costs that were projected as well as the maint costs.

            A factor was also how much ramp space a A330MRT takes up vs a KC-46A.

            Others write far better on contract terms, I focus on tech details and I am not a financial guy and don’t claim to be.

          • @ TW

            A repeat of your recent wing-join fantasy 😉

            If you (and Rob) can’t/won’t provide hard evidence here, then it’s all just in your imagination(s).

      • I don’t think there is a CRAF anymore, at least not all that big.

  5. Most likely will the USAF want stealth tankers ASAP. There is an advantage to refuel stealth fighters further out from China mainland with the extra range the LMXT will provide. The 767 is old and out of passenger version production with its old PW4000 engines. It used to be that the USAF was on the technology leading edge and not the trailing edge.

    • Claes:

      We are 15 years away from a so called stealth tanker if that can even be done.

      It does not matter how old the 767 is, B-52 have been out of production for 60 years and still no issues with support.

      The PW4000 has had many tech inserts and upgrades and has turned into a reliable and well supported engine.

      • Regarding the 767 and PW4000. They might work well now but are such old design no airline wants them, FedEx buys 767F with CF6-80C2’s of similar vintage. You would expect the USAF to buy at least a 787 tanker with good range, modern systems and low fuel consumption, but it smells support to Boeing and P&W ordering end of line planes during peace time.

        • Claes:

          I have no idea why the PW4000 was chosen. But it has been upgraded and is a pretty efficient and very reliable engine (now).

          The USAF will pick and choose and in the case of the F-15EX the GE engines are vastly preferred and they sole sources on those.

          What you forget is the A330MRT is also a dated design with Trent 700 engines.

          What is relevant is the average tanker use (US) is 900 hours a year. So there is a compromise in air frames and engines and there is no way a 787 was going to compete.

          Either a 767 or A330 is a good choice as they meet the need and they have excess capacity to do so.

  6. In the end, it doesn’t matter what Boeing or Lockheed, wants or thinks. It only matters how the USAF defines their missions and their needs. That’s what will determine the acquired tanker.

    Which one best addresses the defined mission, with best performance to cost ratio. That’s all that matters, and it can only be decided by the USAF.

    Currently the USAF is satisfied with the mission match of the KC-46. So Lockheed would need to make a compelling case for an improved match.

    • “Currently the USAF is satisfied with the mission match of the KC-46”

      Got a link to back that up?

      This article (from just 8 months ago) paints a somewhat different picture:

      “However, AMC clarified later the KC-46 still cannot refuel the A-10 Warthog due to a problem with the stiffness of its refueling boom and won’t be able to until the issue is fixed.

      “But more work remains, (Air Mobility Command head) Minihan said, and AMC is now going to concentrate on putting into place the necessary fixes for the Pegasus. Until then, he said, there are still some limitations and workarounds crews must take into account.

      “For example, the original vision system’s picture can be distorted or difficult to see under certain lighting conditions or angles. This can sometimes put the tanker in danger of scraping the receiving aircraft with the boom.

      “And there are still some challenges that crews are having to work around, Minihan said, such as the ongoing vision problems with the original RVS. Minihan said that if the Pegasus’ crew is having trouble seeing through the RVS, for example, the air crew will position the plane differently so the angles or lighting conditions aren’t as problematic. He said the upgraded version of RVS, dubbed RVS 2.0, will fix this problem.”


      • The A-10 issue ocurred because the USAF believed it would be retired before the KC-46 entered service. They have been requesting that retirement for many years.

        Thus they specified the boom connecting force at the international standard of 1400 pounds. Boeing complied with the specifications. But the A-10 lacks the power to stay on the boom at that force level, except at low altitude and without a combat load (no afterburner).

        The F-16 also has a minor issue in that for some cases, it needs afterburner to stay on the boom.

        So the USAF issued a supplemental contract to redesign the boom to allow for connecting forces down to 600 pounds.

        The USAF is very happy with the RVS 2.0 system, which is now in trials. It’s a major upgrade they are receiving at zero cost.

        Even with RVS 1.0, the problem cases are also corner cases, which is why the KC-46 is approved for all other aircraft, and is now being dispatched and deployed around the world. Minihan has said it will be used in any conflict that develops.


        Part 1:

        Part 2:

        • The usual deflection.

          The first link refers to an RVS that hasn’t yet been implemented — the link clearly states that implementation is (at least) 2 years away.

          The second and third links show refuelling videos with music in the background, and some catchy interview snippets with crew.

          Still waiting for a link to back up your sweeping statement that “Currently the USAF is satisfied with the mission match of the KC-46”

          Looks like another example of your tendency to try to present personal opinion as fact.

          • Bryce, Scott has already listed in his article, the USAF position that they are favoring foregoing the KC-Y competition, to do additional KC-46 acquisitions. This has been known for some time, and is not generally disputed, except possibly by you.

            Your assertion is that they don’t want the KC-46. I have to go with the USAF statements, over yours. Possibly they are better informed than you are.

            The decision is not final and will require Congressional consultation. There will undoubtedly be pressure to continue with the KC-Y competition. So we’ll have to see what happens.

            However my point was, that even if that competition occurs, it will be on Lockheed to make the case that the LMXT is a better match to the USAF mission requirements.

            In the meantime, USAF has a functional tanker already in service around the world, that meets all their requirements, with the corrections that are already in the pipeline.

          • @ Rob

            “Scott has already listed in his article, the USAF position that they are favoring foregoing the KC-Y competition, to do additional KC-46 acquisitions”
            That is not the same as asserting that “Currently the USAF is satisfied with the mission match of the KC-46”


            “Your assertion is that they don’t want the KC-46”
            Please point out to me where I asserted that.


            You *still* haven’t provided any link to back up your assertion “Currently the USAF is satisfied with the mission match of the KC-46”.

            Yet another example of fantasy projected as reality.

          • Ok Bryce, since you only believe things you read on the Internet:


            “Kendall told reporters in a March that studies into what the Air Force will need for its future tanker led it to start reconsidering whether a competition is necessary. The requirements for this tanker “started to look like a modified KC-46, more than they do a completely new design.”

            “When asked whether he is confident enough in Boeing and the Pegasus to consider going with more of them, he pointed to the improvement in the KC-46′s capabilities over the last year.

            “Compared to a year ago at this time … we’d say ‘We’re not using the KC-46, it’s not really operational,’” Hunter said. “There’s been a huge sea change in the last year, and Air Mobility Command has really cleared the way for operational use of the KC-46.”

            “And a year from now, Hunter predicted the Air Force will have a “very robust and operationally viable KC-46.”


            “In addition to the U.S., seven other countries have also cleared some of their aircraft to refuel with the KC-46. Earlier this year, four KC-46s deployed to Spain in an exercise that AMC designed to refine its tactics and plans for the aircraft in addition to validating the tankers abroad. In about 1 1/2 months, the tankers flew 81 missions totaling 536.3 hr., offloading 2 1/2 million lb. of fuel to 155 aircraft including Spanish F-18s, and supporting U.S. fighters that were deploying to Europe for air policing missions on NATO’s eastern front.

            “Allies asking for a while, hey, we’d love to certify our aircraft against your KC-46 and we finally felt that we were in a position to do that,” Samuelson says of training with allies.

            The Boeing E-7A is also undergoing tests with the KC-46 ahead of both clearance for allied operators to receive fuel from the tanker and before the U.S. Air Force itself plans to buy the Wedgetail. Royal Australian Air Force E-7s have flown in multiple exercises inside the U.S. this year.

            “Until that visual system is upgraded, AMC does not have a plan to declare this aircraft fully operationally capable,” Samuelson says. “However, does that mean you won’t see the KC-46 around the world filling [aerial refueling] mission sets? No. It means you will see that, it’ll just be a measured risk.”

            Like the deployment to Europe earlier this year, AMC is planning similar exercises across the globe to come soon. KC-46s will deploy to the Pacific for exercise Valiant Shield starting this month, with a deployment to the Middle East to follow.

            These missions are also shaping the Air Force’s design for operational units. The command is increasing the number of aircrews per tail to a 2.0 ratio, which is equal to that of the KC-10 and higher than the 1.75 ratio on the KC-135, meaning there will be 24 aircrews for 12 jets in a squadron. The command expects the new KC-46 will keep a high readiness rate and operate more often.

            “What that does is, like most newer aircraft, we’re hoping that the ability of the aircraft to fly its missions and maintain a higher maintenance reliability rate is there so that you can turn the aircraft and you can utilize it, it’s not being down for parts or other opportunities,” Samuelson says.”

          • https://www.mcconnell.af.mil/News/Article/2932033/team-mcconnell-showcases-kc-46-capabilities-ace-during-cope-north-22/

            “Having the ability to apply the new tactics, techniques, and procedures that we have developed over the past several months has been a career highlight,” said Capt. Jack Rush, 344th Air Refueling Squadron. “We are landing at austere locations with the world’s newest tanker aircraft and applying dispersal techniques that will have strategic impact. The KC-46 may be in its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation process, but you would think otherwise watching yesterday’s Special Refueling Operations at an austere field.”

            “The excitement level is high, especially with the communications capabilities of the KC-46,” said Capt. Henry Darr, 22d ARW Chief of Agile Combat Employment. “The redundancy of beyond-line-of-sight communication suite as well a much larger air refueling envelope is extremely well received. In addition, the KC-46 can refuel both boom and drogue receivers without reconfiguring the aircraft, which allows considerable flexibility to the mission commanders during execution.”

            Notably, the LMXT does not have austere field capability.

            And recently the KC-46 added the CV-22 Osprey to the list of qualified aircraft.


            “According to the USAF, the ability to use the centreline hose-and-drogue system allows the KC-46A to refuel the Osprey and other hose-and-drogue-compatible aircraft without any modification.

            “The CV-22 is specifically designed for long-range missions, and when you add on top of that an aerial refuelling capability you can extend that distance to the point where you’re only limited by how long the crew is able to fly,” says Belviso.

            “The KC-46 can get enough fuel to get multiple CV-22s that much further both into and out of combat.”

            The USAF states that refuelling directly from the KC-46A saves time. Ordinarily, a CV-22 on a combat mission would refuel from a Lockheed Martin MC-130J, which would in turn have to refuel from another tanker.

            “Because KC-46s can refuel us directly, we can go straight to them and get everything done much more quickly,” adds Belviso.

          • Rob:

            Moving to a A330MRT would require a whole new congressional action.

            Extending the very cost effective KC-46A (to the US Govt) is in the procurement allowances.

            If the USAF adds requirements those are negotiated out with Boeing.

          • @ Rob

            Great links, but you still haven’t provided a link to back up your assertion that ““Currently the USAF is satisfied with the mission match of the KC-46””

            The fact that the USAF may be (sort-of) satisfied with (sort-of) progress that’s being (sort-of) made on a variety of individual aspects of the KC-46A, doesn’t indicate satisfaction with it’s “mission match”.

            Back to the drawing board now and provide a link to back up your assertion.

          • Bryce, asked and answered. By Mike Bohnet as well, from your own quoted articles.

            You can choose not to accept the answers if you wish, as you typically do. But the answers remain unchanged.

          • @ Rob

            “Bryce, asked and answered”

            No, Rob — you mean “fudged and deflected”.
            Still waiting for that link — or an admission that what you tried to present as fact was merely a personal opinion.
            Come along, now!

            p.s. Losing sleep again? It’s 4:30 a.m. there in California…

      • Bryce,

        Rob said:

        Currently the USAF is satisfied with the mission match of the KC-46.

        I think Rob is right. Satisfaction with the mission match means that the Air Force is reasonably sure that it has the right tool for the job, so to speak. There is plenty of evidence for that.

        The most compelling being just 4 months ago: US Air Force awards Boeing $2.3B contract for 15 more KC-46s

        Then from the article that you yourself linked:

        “I have 100% confidence in [the Pegasus’] ability,” Minihan said. “The people that fly, fix and support it, love it. The people that refuel off it, love it.”


        “The KC-46 now officially joins the rest of the Air Force’s refueling fleet in meeting combatant command requirements around the world,” Brig. Gen. Ryan Samuelson, the head of AMC’s KC-46 cross functional team, said in the release. “But the KC-46A is a game changer in its ability to transmit and exchange data between networks, arming warfighters with real-time battlefield awareness [and] extending the joint force’s reach, flexibility and endurance capabilities.”


        “It’s not only giving situational awareness via the net, it’s also extending lethality via its refueling,” Minihan said.

        So, seems to me that the Air Force likes what the KC-46 brings to the table enough to order 15 more, and then to seriously consider ordering an additional 75 without competing it out. Apparently, the Air Force is not sure that the LMXT brings enough additional capability to the table to justify the additional time/money/trouble of an open competition. After all, RVS 2.0, which is what the Air Force really likes and wants, will be there long before the LMXT will.

        The Air Force can be satisfied that the KC-46 is a good match for their mission, even though there are still RVS issues to work around. The tool can still be the right one for the job, even though it is not perfect.

        BTW, trying to use the boom stiffness issue to support your argument is pretty sad. Everyone who comments here understands it was a USAF spec screwup.

        • Using something — or ordering more of it — does not necessarily indicate satisfaction with its performance.
          There are such things as “we’ve committed now, and we can’t turn back” and “any port in a storm”.
          Further: you, at least, used the qualifier “I think”; on the other hand, Rob used no such qualifier. Absolute statements should be backed up by absolute evidence.

          Also, can you show me where I was “trying to use the boom stiffness issue to support my argument”?
          I quoted a high-ranking USAF officer in an article, and he/it made the argument — not me.

          • Bryce,

            Satisfaction is not binary. There are degrees of it. The latest reporting paints a picture that the USAF thinks that the KC-46 will meet all of the performance specs with RVS-2.0, and right now, with RVS-1.5 and some operational adjustments, is good enough to get the job done. They are currently satisfied enough until it becomes what the USAF wanted in the first place.

            The latest reporting also suggests that the USAF is in the midst of deciding whether or not they want to make the KC-46 work for missions it was not originally intended for, missions envisioned for the KC-Y, until they can get what they really want, an advanced tech tanker. This indicates at least that the USAF is somewhat satisfied that the KC-46 matches the USAF original intended mission, which is what Rob meant.

            You responded to Rob to refute his assertion that Currently the USAF is satisfied with the mission match of the KC-46. This is your argument that you are making in this forum.

            This article (from just 8 months ago) paints a somewhat different picture:

            “However, AMC clarified later the KC-46 still cannot refuel the A-10 Warthog due to a problem with the stiffness of its refueling boom and won’t be able to until the issue is fixed.

            It doesn’t matter who said it. If you are using it to refute Rob’s statement, which you are obviously are, then it becomes your argument. As I, and many others in this forum, have pointed out repeatedly over the last several years, the fault for this issue lies with the USAF, as they themselves have admitted.

          • “Satisfaction is not binary.”
            Which is why Rob’s absolute assertion on the matter is so absurd…unless, of course, he can back it up with a cast-iron reference (which he couldn’t).


            Further: if you’re going to quote my comment, then quote the whole thing. Apart from that, you did notice that the bit about the A-10 was in quotes, didn’t you?

            Extending your “logic”: if CNN quotes Trump as saying that he’d be a great president, does that then mean that CNN is asserting that Trump would be a great president..?

          • Bryce,

            Bad on you to assume Rob was being absolute.

            In the linked article itself, the part where the AMC makes a clarification about the boom was not in quotes, so it wasn’t a direct quote by the general. It was obviously the article’s author reporting clarification from the AMC (organization) on the state of the boom/A-10 issue after the interview with the general.

            So, if it is not a direct quote from the general (or a high ranking USAF officer) why use it to bolster your argument against Rob? You put it in your response to Rob for a purpose, right? Or did you just blindly throw it all in there hoping to fool the uninitiated?

          • “Bad on you to assume Rob was being absolute.”

            Rob said:
            “Currently the USAF is satisfied with the mission match of the KC-46”

            Can you please point out any subjectivity and/or conditionality which (you think) is contained in that absolute assertion?


            You’re obsessing about boom stiffness at the expense of the rest of the quote.
            The quote (in addition to specifying many other shortcomings) says that the KC-46A can’t refuel an A-10. Regardless of the underlying reason for that, an inability to refuel a particular plane type in use in the USAF is a shortcoming which is materially relevant to evaluating Rob’s assertion.

            Remember that only one counterexample is needed to disprove a theory.

          • Bryce,

            You agreed that satisfaction is not binary.

            “Satisfaction is not binary.”

            Rob just said the USAF is satisfied. He didn’t say how satisfied they are. So, not an absolute statement.

            Not obsessing over the boom issue at all. I brought it up because it smacks of either desperation or sloppiness on your part to disprove Rob.

          • I would like to offer a suggestion. Scott is a highly respected researcher and commentator on this stuff. What if instead of using his subscriber comments forum to pick nits about what this of that article meant and what we should or should not read into it, we just started laying out a constructive way forward (or back – if that is your preferred way of thinking about it)?

            The thing is, I’ll bet that if we cleaned up our act a bit (my puts included) that they just might be seen by folks who have a say in how things are done going forward.

            I don’t believe that anyone here would want anything other than to see Boeing restored as a healthy company that is routinely bringing out better products for their customers in terms of technical and financial performance. I also think we would all like to see the customers, including the Air Force, become more capable. We face a lot of dangerous challenges going forward. Threats from Russia, China, religious extremists, and a long list of other issues could all benefit from a healthy American aerospace industry. So let’s make a contribution to that.

          • @ Mike Bohnet

            I’m not trying to “disprove Rob”: he made a sweeping, absolute assertion, for which I’d like to see some back up. He couldn’t provide it — as usual.

            He made a similar absolute assertion regarding an “official view” at the USAF — but, once again, couldn’t back it up. Scott told him that there was no “official view” and all we heard after that was crickets.

            That’s a bit of a pattern for him, if you look carefully. But that’s what happens when one conflates “opinion” and “reality”.

            Now, I don’t know who taught you language at school… but, if a statement doesn’t contain any form of qualification, conditionality or subjectivity, then it’s an absolute assertion rather than an opinion. Certain concepts may be non-binary for you and me, but that doesn’t mean that they’re non-binary for others.


            @ Retired Tech Fellow

            I’m not picking nits here.
            When a particular commenter regularly makes broad, sweeping assertions for which no evidence is offered, what’s the harm in putting him on the spot?

    • @Rob

      Compelling match 😂😂
      Boeing has failed miserably on delivering their promises with the the KC46.
      Failed reliability
      Failed FOD….. still on going
      Failed boom operations and failed remote vision systems. Research if you so wish.
      I know because I was there.
      Boeing losses have much to do with their failed program management and frankly just poor management.
      Why the Air Force sticks with this is strictly political.

      And this argument I continue to hear about ‘fleet commonality’ is mute.
      The US Air Force operates the KC135, KC10 (great tanker BTW) KC46…. Add in the KC130 for refueling helicopters.

      If Boeing wins it will all be political… just like it was in 2008. There’s a reason Boeing moved corporate to WDC.
      The LM MRTT is the clear choice for a global theater.

      • I wish I could disagree with you Airdoc. Alas, I can’t find a hole in your arguments.

      • The obvious problem with this analysis, is that the USAF disagrees. And they are the customer.

        You of course are welcome to your own opinion. But none of that is going to impact the decision.

        Also the political claim is just another form of the conspiracy theory that developed around the GAO forcing a recompete. It’s clearly debunked by the evidence.

        If the KC-Y competition proceeds, that will likely be a political event, as it would be done by Congress overriding the USAF.

        It’s fair to say that the USAF became frustrated with Boeing, largely due to the contract issues I outlined in another post. The frustration was mutual, which led to a standoff. But since that has been resolved, the relationship is markedly improved, and the USAF likes the KC-46.

        I do agree about the FOD issues, that was a senseless mistake on Boeing’s part. There is no failed reliability that I’m aware of.

        The MRTT cost issues are discussed in other posts, as to why it’s not a good fit for the USAF mission set, but is a good fit for smaller fleets.

          • It is always risky to say “X likes Y” when X is a large organization. You will always get different answers depending on whom within X you ask. Can you find someone in the Air Force who will sing the praises of the KC-46? Of course – that would be anyone who was involved in signing off on it. Now try asking the generals responsible for dispatching it on a mission, or the poor folks asked to try and refuel planes with them using the RVS.

          • Again, asked and answered. Refusing to accept the answer is not an argument.

          • @ Rob

            “Again, asked and answered. Refusing to accept the answer is not an argument.”

            No, Rob. What you actually mean is:
            “Again, fudged and deflected. Trying to sell a personal fantasy is not an argument”

          • @ RetiredTechFellow

            Which (inter alia) is why Rob’s broad, sweeping claims are so lame — particularly as he tries to sell them as facts, but without supporting evidence of an equally absolute nature.

            Rob has lectured to us many times in the past about “presenting opinion as fact” — and, yet, here he is doing exactly that himself 😉

          • The official position of the USAF is that they would prefer to forego the KC-Y competition, in favor of an extension of the KC-46 contract. That is the simple truth.

            Congress may intervene politically to require the competition. If that occurs, the burden will be on Lockheed to show they can better match the evaluation requirements. That too, is the simple truth.

            Does every person in the USAF absolutely agree with this? Probably not. But that is not a criterion in the evaluation.

            I can tell you that I’ve spoken to a KC-46 crew at an airshow, and their perspective was that they like the aircraft. I asked detailed questions about RVS 1.0. They said it was usable as-is, except for specific cases. But they looked forward to RVS 2.0 as a major improvement.

            I took them at their word, as that was also my conclusion from my own research. And it has been borne out by subsequent events. The KC-46 is now cleared for all receivers, in all theaters, except the A-10.

          • @ Rob

            “The official position of the USAF is that they would prefer to forego the KC-Y competition”

            Have you got a link to back up that very sweeping, absolute statement?

            Bear in mind that the article above only says that “So far, the secretary of the Air Force publicly said he is leaning toward a sole-source follow-on order”…but “leaning toward” is not the same as “prefer”…

          • It’s not the “official” position of the USAF that it wants sole sourcing. But it’s the sentiment expressed by Secretary Kendall.

          • Again, a distinction without a difference.

          • Again, Rob failing on basic reading comprehension.

            Here’s a simple example for you, Rob:
            “Jimmy is leaning toward staying in his relationship with Jenny — for the sake of the kids — even though he’d prefer a divorce”

            Can you follow the distinction there? 😉

            And then the term “official”:
            “Officially, Jimmy and Jenny are a harmonious couple…but the reality behind the scenes is different”.

            How about that one? Did you get it?

  7. The hard cold reality is that the A330MRT offers a different set of features and are those features worth the higher cost?

    Because the cost would be higher both for the A330MRT and the KC-46B. And the A330MRT would be much higher.

    Airbus has to make money and LM has to make money.

    Flip is the US per standard procurement can extend a contract in place and regardless of the KC-46A issue, they got a bargain. Lower fuel use, less maint, easier basing. That is why a Station Wagon costs less to buy and operate than a van, its smaller.

    As for fueling range, you can adjust to smaller package of fighters and make it work (F-35 and F-22 can penetrate airspace others can’t).

    An A330MRT would have to have huge capability increase that offset the KC-46A in cost and maint and it does not have that. As a USAF spec aircraft it does not exist and the KC-46A does.

    The F-35 engine is a case in point. Two different engines are not the issue with the F-35. Split costs and maint streams would have meant twice as many parts and issues. The vast overuns were in other areas (one being a huge failure to build parts stock and maint facilities which the USAF wanted to do itself – but you got to put money into facilities to make that work and they did not let alone minimal parts)

    No that is not the whole story but its a part of it and it was brought to us by LM.

    Big delay to get an A330MRT built to US spec and then clear the issues, there are always issues. Anyone says the A330MRT did not have those are fooling themselves (or trying to fool others).

    • It’s a good and often overlooked point that the MRTT does not have everything to USAF spec. There would be issues with getting it there that have already been overcome. I could see something like the original lease deal potentially working as a KC10 replacement, however if the capability was needed we could use someone else’s for that mission if it was actually a wartime scenario. It makes a lot more sense to replace more KC135s quickly and it sounds like a lot of the benefit is not just actual tanking but in the comms station it brings.

      • This would be similar to Boeing’s difficulties in adapting the foreign service KC-767, to USAF military spec in the KC-46. Other nations were perfectly happy to accept commercial designs and components, but USAF was not.

        Then once it was adapted to mil-spec, all those changes had to be certified again for FAA civilian transport service.

        I suspect the MRTT also has a fair fraction of commercial components that their host nations would accept, but that USAF would reject. But the process would be smoother for Lockheed, as the contract would be structured to more clearly delineate what is needed.

        In the Boeing fixed-cost contract, USAF ceded a lot of design authority to Boeing. But then were unhappy that Boeing kept a lot of the KC-767 components.

        That’s why both parties said they would not use that contract again. It left too many ambiguities, and had no provision for redesign or correction.

        Lockheed wouid at least have the benefit of that experience.

        • Rob:

          I don’t see the logic or reality involved. The USAF knew what it was doing when it did a best bid contract.

          Boeing failed on the Vision aspect (close up view for fueling) but that was an issue that had to be proven (the USAF had no idea). Airbus clearly did a great job on theirs. We don’t know if the Airbus wide view (if they have it) works the way the USAF wants or not (Boeing met that spec, the USAF found they did not like what they asked for)

          As for the FAA certification, there was a movement that thought it got better quality, the KC-46A is never going to see civilian service, it was a USAF spec. The A400 was specified the same way (and its never going into Civilian use either)

          All I see is it add costs at no gain.

          LM is not going to have benefit of anything from Boeing, if they do a KC-Y bid, they may not even require FAA cert (I have seen no notion of what one way or the other)

          LM does have experience on the C130-J as they intended to sell it as a cargo job into the Civilian market.

          But there is a massive difference between a built to spec vs a gut an airframe and build it into a tanker.

          • The policy of USAF is that any new aircraft that serves a personnel transport role, must have FAA civilian certification. The KC-46 was the first.

            The reason is two-fold. First, USAF was investing considerable resources to replicate much of the functionality of the FAA, in military certification.

            Second, the FAA methods had acheived better accident rates than the USAF had been able to acheive via military certification.

            So it makes sense from those standpoints. But it does raise the cost of the aircraft.

            Lockheed would benefit from the improved contract structure, that would allow the USAF to fund a greater percentage of development costs, and would provide greater design clarity. Those were the lessons learned in the Boeing KC-X contract.

          • Thats right .
            The refuelling equipment the USAF required – and which caused delays- was new development specifically for their complex needs, not the same as existing ‘booms and baskets’
            The baskets especially were a new type that was operator controllable

  8. It also should be noted that the Vision system had two aspects.

    One was the wide angle portion and the other was the up close direct fueling part.

    Like the boom spec, the USAF specified the wide angle portion details and they were wrong. The USAF is paying for that part of the fix just like they are paying for the boom being too stiff for some aircraft.

    The direct fueling vision system was Boeing and the issues are well reported. There is now a fix in place for both vision aspects that the USAF has fully agreed with.

    While commonality is not a sole issue (its incredible the number of different engine and mfgs the Army uses for its ground equipment) it is an added cost factor and it is simpler to have one type that all maint personal are familiar with as well as a simpler parts stream (and as we have seen over and over again, the supply chain is an issue).

  9. Here are the operational enhancements the USAF laid out for the KC-Y program, over KC-X. They are fairly modest, and that is one reason why the KC-46 is favored as a continuing program, over a new acquisition.

    Included goals are:

    1. “resilient line of sight (LOS) and beyond line of sight (BLOS) airborne connectivity with the future Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) environment”

    (note: Boeing just got a contract to add this capability to the KC-46)

    2. “open architecture design, federated systems & data streams”

    3. “alternative forms of positioning, navigation and timing (PNT)”

    4. “enhanced survivability and mission effectiveness, increased situational awareness that enhances situational understanding”

    5. “on-board electronic warfare (EW)/electronic attack (EA)”

    (note: USAF now has an EW upgrade planned for the KC-46).

    6. “interoperability with off-board Autonomous Collaborative Platforms (ACP)” (loyal wingman)


    • Rob:

      Good post and link.

      The base KC-46A works and works just fine. I have read reports of the pilots flying it and they are over the moon in its capabilities (coming from a KC-135R of course they would be)

      Usually the case is that once spiral improvement is done, it just gets better over time.

      And despite all the talk of a stealth tanker, no such design exists and the research has not been done (and other than small ones can it even be done)

      In the end RCS is the driver and the bigger the aircraft the harder RCS is to achieve.

      And your fueling tracks have to account for RCS in all aspects and that is an even tougher gig.

      There are ways to give the KC-46A more range and at some cost of fuel offload, but then the fighters themselves have to have small enough RCS to do their job and only the F-35 and F-22 have that.

      A stealth tanker with a large F-15 RCS is useless (assumes you can build a stealth tanker).

      F-35 due to range has to get closer still and that makes the stealth tanker even harder to work.

  10. The other issue on the KC-Y program, is that mission requirements haven’t really changed that much from KC-X.

    It continues to be true that the LMXT is oversize for the vast majority of missions, which drives up cost for the same capability.

    If you have a small fleet of tankers, that doesn’t fly that often, it makes sense to purchase as much tanker as you can. This is why the MRTT has been successful with those nations. It meets their own needs, as well as their NATO obligations.

    If you have a huge fleet of tankers, that are flying dozens of mostly light missions per day, all around the world, then the much smaller KC-46 makes sense. It holds your costs down over a very large number of annual missions. The US flies more missions in a month, than most nations do in a year.

    One thing that has changed, is the greater need for Pacific missions. There the larger tanker has an advantage. So the choices are to make a small carve-out in the fleet for a large tanker, as was done with the KC-10, or adapt your CONOPS to allow for the smaller tanker.

    The USAF is looking at these options now. I suspect their view is that they can make the KC-46 work in the interim, until they can get KC-Z, which should add both range and stealth.

    But we have to see how it falls out. There is an argument to be made both ways.

    • The Pacific mission has not changed, the threat has.

      In theory there are now ultra long range anti tanker missiles and that can threaten a tanker, does not matter if its an A330MRT or a KC-46A. Also longer range fighters and those in turn have tanker assets.

      One reality is you are not going to run a war ops from Hawaii or Alaska. That in turn means what bases you have and where they are at and can you defend them?

      One solution is more distributed ops. The US did that in WWII in the Philippines with the B-17s. Same with Germany with the ME-262 that they moved around bases, and the ones empty were flak trips.

      The US is proving that the Patriot is extremely effective at missile smack down and there are lower tier systems that work as well. A cruise missile across a large body of empty water is easily targeted.

      And a lot of this discounts the US Navy and its capabilities. China has poor anti sub assets and the US has one superb one (fast attack subs) as well as what looks to be a very good one (P-8) .

      And if the Carriers can be cleared to operate that brings a whole different tool set to the table. Its been true since WWII, combined arms works and its not just artillery, armor and infantry, its Aircraft (USAF or USN/USMC) and destroyers and carriers.

      AWACs is present, Australia can throw in the Wedge-tail and the USN has a Radar Aircraft along the same lines.

      And Japan no longer can be discounted. UK, France have serious interests in the region and even Italy has sent a warship to the region (you don’t need them in Europe you want to use them, ergo Asia is a Naval Theater.

    • There are some mis-staatements there. The panoramic view (wide) was a USAF created issue and they paid for that part of the fix.

      The other is that tankers run fueling tracks and turn regularly , not as a result of a threat.

      Supply chain issues keep rearing their head as do suppliers. The T-7A ejection seat has (or had) significant issues and while Boeing is responsible, its a contract supplied item. Problematical with very light pilots as well as the canopy blow off setup.

      • The panoramic vision system upgrade was negotiated between Boeing and USAF. Boeing pays for the internal displays and the boom operator workstation, since they were redesigning that anyway. USAF pays for the external cameras.

        Unfortunately USAF selected cameras they use elsewhere in the fleet, that didn’t have FAA certification. So that added about a year of delay (along with other supplier issues).

        Collins/UTC has the sole-source contract for the next generation ejection seat, the ACES5, which was selected by the USAF for the T-7.

        The ACES5 seat was successfully tested with a T-7 mockup in 2021. But now they are finding real-world problems in integration with the actual aircraft, related to the range of body types that must be accommodated.

  11. on another note: “On future developments, Calhoun said the industry was unlikely to introduce all-new jet designs before the mid-2030s.”

    Who is going to be left at Boeing to design a all new commercial aircraft in the mid 2030s?

    • In the last quarter, Boeing commercial spent about a half billion on research. That’s a $2B year burn rate. They are continuously working on new designs and new ideas. That hasn’t gone away.

      What Calhoun meant, is that Boeing would not take the risk of a clean sheet aircraft development, until a sufficient market, with sufficient technical advances, existed to make it worthwhile. Airbus is of the same mindset.

      • Money on “research” is not the same as money on new aircraft projects.

        “What Calhoun meant” is exactly what the link said, i.e. “the industry was unlikely to introduce all-new jet designs before the mid-2030s”.

          • Your lack of sleep (it’s 4:30 a.m. there in California) is starting to show.

            Surely you can understand the difference between “spending on research” and “developing a new plane program”?

            Tip: Instead of counting sheep, try to enumerate things on which research money can be spent besides new plane programs…;-)

          • Ah, the insult in lieu of argument. A Bryce trademark.

            Amusingly, even your insults are factually incorrect.

          • Alternatively:

            “Ah, the self-victimization role in lieu of argument. A Rob trademark.

            Amusingly, even your self-victimizations are factually incorrect”

        • When you connect the dots at Renton, Boeing is in the process (sending out bids) to replace the 1960 vintage 737 wing riveters with new equipment and higher level of automation (less people to run the equipment) They wouldn’t be investing $100m in this update unless they were planning a long production run for the 737

          • “When you connect the dots”

            Some people are very bad at connecting dots 😏

          • Dave, I’m not going to say something like this cannot work, but It is highly dubious at best. Good alignment of the tools on both sides of a rivet fastener is a bit of an art. Trying to automate it on the 777 upright build fuse tool failed. It works on GemCor tooling for rivets that have clear access on both sides, and for which a C-frame can be constructed, but you don’t have those kinds of easy clearances on the initial panel assembly or later for the work done in wing majors. If they overcommit on this sort of thing, it could end up being another FAUB experience – i.e. lots of cost, a big hit to schedules, and eventually reverting to some version of the old methods. Another risk (again, the FAUB experience is a good example) is sometimes you can make these things work slowly, but as you try to turn up the rate, the accuracy falls apart and can’t be recovered. That said, these sorts of things are always worthwhile experiments.

          • Retired Tech Fellow
            I agree with you Automation for automation sake is not good (e.g. FAUB). Over commitment for automation to lower labor costs sometimes goes overboard to get the ROI passed by the Boeing accountants!
            Looks like it will be Electroimpact win with the Gemcor building being sold in Buffalo, NY The last time I checked you need personnel expertise and building to build automation equipment!

          • David . The wing production process for the 737 max wing was all new and increased automation with new jigs.
            They kept one jig for the P-8 wing which needed other adaptations as it continued the engine location – and engine- from the NG series.
            ‘Five machines, made outside Seattle by Electroimpact Inc, have been erected in the plant.’

            Connect the dots as they say , you seem to have forgotten the 737 wing doesnt even *come from the 60s* as it was a new improved design in the early 90s for the NG series.

          • Dukeofurl
            The Gemcor wing riveters for the 737 production with pit cylinders system to hold the wing, they do wing panels (not jigs) and have since the beginning of the 737 production going back to the 1960s. That’s what going to be replaced by Boeing The Gemcor WRS are the same main structure (except for update C Frame with deeper throat depth (from 60″ to 72″ to 96″) that was install in the 1960’s with updates electronics The upper and lower heads are the same process Its still a hydraulic squeeze for the slug process, not all electric. PS 5 Electroimpact machines don’t have production rate of 60 a month.

          • RE Gemcor and ElectroImpact Riveters..Gemcor was sold in abouit 2016 to a calif outfit- haven’t bothered to track the details. My first dealings with Gemcors were about 1966-67 on 2707 program- Met Tom Speller in Buffalo about Dec 1966. Was very involved in riveting issues. As a result, I designed and had built the first ElectroMagnetic Riveter (EMR ) while working on the 2707 SST program with NASA provided 5k voltage power supply and designed to drive [from both sides simultaneously] -Titanium or A-286 rivets to be used on 2707.But First production use of that concept was with approx 100 lb hand held -cable supported units on 747 inner wing section which Gemcors could not reach. No my name is NOT on patents, but my managers and supervisors names are. ( True story not pertinent here.) Yes I know CEO (PeterZeive ) of Electroimpact and and toured his Everett facility in 2017 – His main contribution about a decade later was a low voltage unit compared to the 4 to 5K volts used initially. Yes he has seen my old reports and my photos taken in 1967-68 and knows the full story as to how Boeing avoided government interest in the process/patents.
            Talk about serendipity !!
            Someday the true story about gold colored ” titanium ” drills

          • RE my below comments re ElectroImpact and my EMR riveter background. Other than a desktop unit as first unit, I had designed and built a lightweight (4″ x 5” square tubing 4 foot throat unit ) for testing of large panel fatigue testing dogbones.[ See US patent 3,704,506 dec 5 1972 ] By using 100 lb plus reaction mass on upper and lower units and suspending the unit from a chain hoist,we made a short movie of driving a 1/4 inch dia A286 slug rivet ( approx 30,000 lb force ) in a small 3/8 inch thick titanium plate on which we set a glass beaker with red dye water. After a bit of adjusting upper and lower air clamping pressures behind the reaction masses- we drove the slug with barely a ripple on the water visible. Somewhere in Boeing archives MAY be that film. But under terms of the cancellation, virtually all such documentation was scrapped- except for a few photos I have from one of my reports 😉

            The point is a relatively small lightweigt ‘ c frame’ equivalent can be used with some types/designs of ‘ offset ‘ tooling to drive rivets/slugs in some cramped spaces.

            By the way- the fatigue test specimen mentioned gave excellent and better fatigue test results compared to hand gundrive or Gemcor squeeze vibrate methods.. that was in 1998 or so.

          • “Who is going to be left at Boeing to design a all new commercial aircraft in the mid 2030s?”

            BA is expanding engineering centers in Eastern Europe, India and Brazil. Don’t worry.

        • @Bryce

          Call me old fashioned but money spent…is money spent.

  12. One aspect that others don’t get and Scott failed to mention was that you could never do a real competition between a smaller 767 and an A330.

    The A330 was always going to cost more to build and it was going to have higher maint costs in the engines (bigger engines, more cost) as well as fuel burn.

    The USAF actually got what it wanted which was a lower bid, a lot lower. In contractor terms Boeing left a lot of money on the table. Calhoun sings the Who is Sorry now song, same as the T-7A (he is very good at 20/20 hindsight)

    You can try to arrange a bid such that an adder kicks in (credit) but you have to determine at what level and what the credit. The USAF tried the wrong way and got bit and got the bid overturned (rarely done).

    So they went simple.

    Regardless its a done deal and highly unlikely the USAF is going to even try to do a KC-Y as there is not enough benefit to it and there is major downsides to it (just getting it through congress would be impossible)

    The USAF could lease A330MRT for some missions like continental US fueling and places like Spain and leave the combat areas to the KC-46A.

    We saw much the same on a new engine for the F-35. An engine that was a prototype and totally unproven adding major cost and question if it would fit the F-35B and C and impact on the program or enhance the P&W engine and get the most you can out of it.

    85% of perfect is good enough in almost all cases. And that assumes perfect even exists and it tends to be more like 90% and that gap is not enough to overcome other impacts.

  13. Shades of the INfamous 2001-2004 767 tanker fiasco Scott mentioned.!

    Suffice it to say at the outset, that Scotts comments re that time period are basically correct. I happened to be more than a little aware of many of the underlying issues that never really surfaced. Digging up several old documents and emails of that era from my backup systems has allowed this old man to fill a few gaps. My involvement was
    via SPEEA in that time period and as personal friends with some of the ‘players’. Some of the following was published at that time, but most not.
    So I intend to make my comments short and to the point and based on documented facts and data known to about a dozen people at the time, most of whom have either retired or passed on.

    Some of the posters here may have noted some of my previous posts over the years which may have touched on a few related issues.

    In the 2000-2001 time frame, SPEEA was preparing a Countervailing Duties petition against Airbus. I did the majority of the research and preparing the petition. InAugust of 2001, the SPEEA Council agreed to file in the first few weeks of September 2001.
    Then came 911 and shortly after the ‘lease’ story. This may take a few posts to fill in a few blanks, but hopefully be interesting enough.

    First lets look at SPEEA had said re Airbus and the CVD petition.
    Years later Boeing filed essentially the same thing.

    GATT started in 1947 to assist Europe recover
    Gatt 92 major assist to Airbus re low cost loans – but if targets not met- loan forgiven
    Airbus gamed system and in 1995 GATT > WTO.
    By 2000- Airbus gaming of loans and costs got out of hand
    SPEEA ( without Boeing help ) started a CVD Countervailing Duties petition.
    Completed petition and approved to file in 2nd week of Sept 2001
    Then came 911- Full stop.

    Next post will be an extract of SPEEA re CVD

    Keep in mind that at that time 767 airframe and related had been mil-spec certified, and a contract with Japan and Italy was in work.

  14. Small correction, but important I think, to Scott’s history of the tanker. The KC-767 tankers delivered Italy and Japan have/had (one is no longer a tanker) the -300ER wing. The ones that the U.S. Air Force was to get would have had the -400 wing, which was/is quite a bit more efficient, providing greater range or time on station.

    The biggest advancement introduced in the 767-400 wing design was the wing tips, which were later used on all 777 models. There were some other mods as well.

    A single plane was built (well almost) in that configuration. It was line number 923. It was actually in the final body join fixture in the 40-24 building in Everett when the contract was cancelled due to the scandal. Once it cleared FBJ and was on its wheels, it advanced down the line with no more work being done. When it got outside it was rolled over to an area behind the newer paint hangar where it sat for quite a long time. It was eventually broken-up for scrap. We jokingly called it the Frankenplane or Frankentanker because of its odd combination of structural sections, but it was actually a darned fine potential airplane.

    The other thing worth keeping in mind on this topic is the order that was placed last year for 34 shipsets of replacement H-Stabs for the KC-135 fleet. This had to be done because the RVS cannot, and in my opinion, will never be able to perform any mission where there is a significant lighting issue, and most especially those that are done lights out at night near hostile air space. We’ve plowed this ground before, but at some point, a new plane that can do the kinds of basic refueling missions that the Air Force has been doing for over 50 years has to be built, and that is not one that has the RVS in it.

    • To retired Tech fellow ..
      RE the 2001-2004 time frame and 767 tankers and a slight jump ahead of my previous.

      The biggest factor (IMHO) re ‘cost of lease, etc ‘ was the game plan pushed by the McDummy folks re ‘assembly’ of the 767 tankers. Basically a green 767 was to be assembled in Everett rolled out,minimum flight test, and then ‘sold’ to ‘Military ‘ division. Flown to Wichita and then disassembled to install all ‘ tanker specific ‘ items, possibly additional wiring, etc , then reassembled and delivered to Airforce.

      Now back to how the lease arrangement really started.

      After 911- Then Senator Stevens from Alaska made a call to a then well known SPEEA past president -Dan Hartley -and asked for suggestions as to how to help Boeing. It was Dan who suggested a ‘ lease’ arrangement plus some special insurance arrangements. ( Dan was a very good friend of mine.)
      As to why the Senator called Dan at that time was later partially published in a local paper after Dan passed in 2004. Partial extract of Article follows and matches what Dan told me at the time in 2001-2002
      ” Hartley dove into issues and made himself an expert in such complicated matters as international trade and tariff law. ( CVD issue ) Lentz said Hartley followed the careers of politicians and bureaucrats and established working
      relationships with them.
      President Richard Nixon appointed Hartley to a position as citizen adviser to Secretary of Defense David Packard, a role he didn’t resign from until the Reagan administration.
      “When I first met Dan, I couldn’t believe he knew all these people,” Lentz said. “But he’d show me e-mails he sent and received from these guys and I realized `By golly, he really knows about these things.”’
      Indeed, Hartley may have planted the seeds of the idea that the Air Force might lease Boeing 767s for use as aerial refueling tankers if the service couldn’t buy them. Lentz said he thinks that subject came up when Alaska Senator Ted Stevens called Hartley after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”
      End extract.

      BTW Alan Mulally knew Dan quite well.
      more extract
      ” “Dan really was one of my heroes,” Mulally said after learning of Hartley’s death. He had visited with the engineer in his hospital room earlier this month.

      “I’ve known him most of my career at Boeing,” the company’s top executive in the Northwest said. “He was an engineer’s engineer. He loved Boeing and he loved commercial airplanes. … He was a Renaissance man, a student of global trade issues, global
      competitiveness … His ideas were solicited by congressmen and senators and government

      Nuff for this . .

      • @Bubba2 – I wish I could argue with your points as well, but alas I cannot. My comments about the wings and LN-923 were limited to the plane only, not the mission equipment. The whole idea of finishing the planes in St. Louis was (drum roll and cough) a cost savings to avoid modifying sections 47 and 48 (i.e. cutting the aft pressure bulkhead and building the conventional boom operator’s station). We can see what a brilliant idea that was and all of the money that was saved by going that route (not). The RVS can’t even work in low contrast daylight situations, let alone on the hard missions.

        • RTF:

          First, there is on going work on the KC-135 fleet of which a portion is always laid up undergoing re-work. Its an old fleet and takes attention to keep it operational. Anytime they find an item that they did not know about its added to the list that is corrected.

          To jump to H stabs (if true) in regards to RVS is beyond ?????? Its going to be some time before the KC-135R can even be half replaced and there are not enough orders in KC-X or KC-Y to do that (you can subtract some KC-135R air frames that are being worked on)

          As the USAF has signed off and is fully happy on the RVS system fixes, its been beat on and tested, I don’t see any argument that it can’t do its job and in one of the links above its been stated the USAF is ecstatic about it.

          • TransWorld: Some folks on the program are trying to pretend that the problems are hidden behind the classification system. I even had one engineer working who is formally briefed into the program express surprise last summer when I rattled off the issues. So that you would have missed all of the public clues about the issues is not something I’ll take as being a big oversight. Here is a link to a bit of puffery that hints at the issue: https://www.airandspaceforces.com/boeing-offers-first-glimpse-new-details-about-kc-46-tankers-rvs-2-0/

            There is a slightly better write-up here:

            That said, even that piece doesn’t get at how awful the situation is. A friend of mine likes to talk about the situation in comparison to Things like WWII or the development of the B-52. Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki – about three years and ten months, with a constant flow of revolutionary aerospace technology that worked right off the assembly lines. From a balsa wood model in a Dayton hotel room to first flight of one of the most complicated planes imaginable, less than two years.

            The primary reason that things happened much more quickly before the finance guys thought they had the smarts to run aerospace companies, was and is technical honesty. When something didn’t work in the old days, it was quickly discarded and chalked up to learning. Today, it’s routine to hide, obfuscate, and pretend that total crap will eventually fly if we just throw a little more money and time at it.

            At this point someone like is supposed to chime in with something like: “I’m shocked! You mean the classification system is used to try and hide waste, fraud, and abuse, and the PR folks do all they can to help? I’m just shocked. Here’s your winnings Wall Street.”

          • RTF:

            I am seeing a lot of scattered and irrelevant comments but nothing that addresses the claim you made.

            Sure, the system is abused, it alwyas has been and it always will be.

            But KC-135R work and the KC-46A RVS have nothing in common.

          • @TransWorld – actually they do – sorry, it’s been a long day and I’m hitting these notes one at a time.

            There are mission profiles that the KC-46 cannot satisfy due to the two big issues it has. So, to cover those missions, they have to keep the KC-135’s flying. If the KC-46 could do what it was advertised as being able to do way back nearly 20 years ago, then the KC-135’s would all be history, with a couple kept around on static display at the entrances to a few bases.

  15. OTOH what has really changed since then ”
    Extract of Council position in 2001 follows

    Airbus Countervailing Duty Position Paper August 2001

    For the past year, the SPEEA Legislative and Public Affairs Committee (L&PA) has been conducting an intensive investigation into the practices of Airbus Industries; namely, the subsidies being provided by EU governments, and the below fair market prices at which they sell their commercial airplanes. SPEEA is concerned because these practices have had a severe impact on the jobs of commercial aerospace workers and the people we represent.
    n order to fill out the petition, the Committee gathered data from various sources, including: Boeing Annual Reports; the first European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) (formerly France’s Aerospatiale Mantra, Germany’s DASA, Spain’s CASA, and Britain’s BAE Systems) Annual Report for 1999/2000; statistical surveys conducted by the European Aerospace Industry (EAI) for 1997 – 1999; information from both Boeing’s and Airbus’ websites; numerous press accounts; and informal discussions with industry representatives.

    The Boeing Company has neither helped nor hindered us, nor have we had access to any Boeing proprietary data.
    The L&PA Committee has made the following observations which lead to our belief that Airbus, through a variety of methods, is effectively selling their products below cost. Raw material, engines, avionics, landing gear, and similar parts cost the same for Boeing and Airbus. Assembly techniques, automation, certification, process controls, and computer-aided design techniques are essentially the same, and have no inherent cost differences. Additionally, labor costs are higher for EU countries, with differences from 15% higher in 1995 to about 5% in 1998. Finally, the EADS annual report shows that for the year 2000, Airbus’ share of EADS net consolidated profit was zero.
    We then compared the published selling prices of Boeing and Airbus commercial airplanes from 1998 – 2000, omitting figures for the Boeing 747. For 1999, the average cost of all airplanes sold by Boeing was $59 million per plane, whereas the average cost for Airbus was $46.4 million per plane. We then compared two comparable models of aircraft, the A320 and the 737-800. Figures reflected an average 737-800 costing (conservatively) about 10% more than the A320.
Therefore, how can Airbus, with equal material and subassembly costs, higher labor costs and arguably lower productivity, and admittedly zero profits, still undercut Boeing prices by at least 10 percent? Our determination is that Airbus is selling most, if not all aircraft models into the U.S. at 10 ­ 25% below cost. Note: this does not include special lease, financial, or maintenance agreements, which even further harm our workers.

    There was more- but the above sets the stage- Petition form was complete but never filed due to a bit of underhanded dealing.

    • They make a basic silly mistake over comparing the 737-800 and the A320.
      They arent equal in any way as business assets

      Airbus is cheaper because it less capable plane, It has 12 economy passenger seats less ( when they are equipped in a similar manner) , the basic fuel capacity is less also ( because the 737-800 had a completely new wing design which carries more fuel) and requires a greater thrust engines at takeoff because of the same less efficent wing ( even though its a ‘lighter plane’ as mentioned in the passenger capacity)
      The same way the 737-700 is cheaper than the 800 because it has less
      earning capability than its larger brother ( but can fly further)

      Until we had the Max 10 which is a very close match to the A321 ( except for basic fuel capacity without extra tanks – which have to be paid for) no Airbus or Boeing planes are even close when it comes to the price- capability matrix

      • “Until we had the Max 10 which is a very close match to the A321”

        Let’s see:
        – Big MTOW difference (related to smaller MAX engine power)
        – Ability to carry LD3 containers in hold of A321 but not B737.
        – FBW vs. cables and pulleys.

        Yep — very close match 😉

        • ye old cable and pulley works quite well in an EMP environment. Granted the KC tankers were built/modified to also ‘ function- fly ‘ in such an environment- pulse with some of the electronics of the day hopefully shielded enough, the current all electronic- computer issues make such shielding even more important. But lets not forget that the current “asnem” (spelled backwards ) types built the first few birds using only commerical- FAA standard wiring which had to be ripped out and redone ( no doubt due to the inability to bother to read specs or more likely to save time and money.- and this despite at the time building the navy 737s with such shielding and routing.. All part of the faster-cheaper route mcdummy virus effects.

          • And since when do the A321/B737 have to contend with an EMP environment…?
            Those aircraft are, after all, what was being discussed further up the thread…

        • Bubba2:

          Sadly that is not the first time the left hand does not know what the right is doing. It takes work to cross link groups so they can learn from each other and obviously that was not done.

          At one time Boeing worked under the well proven concept of having their engineers in close proximity to the production line.

          They broke that up and its a worse execution of all ops.

          BCA President does not even have an office, he roams around like a Gypsy Caravan.

          • MBWA ( management by walking around ) has both positive and negative aspects. And yes Boeing used to have engineers ‘ close to production line’ and rarely even managers close to production line. And in some areas grunts could enquire/question/report to program manager level without fear of retribution. Had both happen to me. In 1963-64 a significant test failure on a friday for a Saturn part resulted in my supervisor setting up a meeting with program manager on Monday, arranged a parking pass for me to corporate offices, gave me a few suggestions- and did not go with me. In 1980’s, after arranging a meeting with director of Q/C to find out why he had given me in a large meeting a ‘ well done ‘- I nearly got fired, and was prevented from EVER talking to ANY manager without MY managers specific approval and my meeting with said Director was cancelled by my supervisor.
            Times and organizations change

          • Bubba2:

            My point was having the engineers assocatied direcly with the producion system has a proven track reconrde of success.

            Is it perfect? No, nothing is.

            Managers staying in touch with programs also has a proven track record .

            Turning them into a Gypsy caravan has not ever been proven to do anything but be disruptive.

            You don’t have to be a caravan to carve out a couple days a week to stay in touch with your programs. Mullaly clearly succeeded at that.

            Change is only good if its been proven to work. When it has not then you change a system at your peril.

            And Boeing system has had such miserable problems I think it clearly makes my point, go back to what worked.

          • trans world- the following is a reply to your ” My point was having the engineers ….”
            Yes I agree re Mulally and a few ( very few others )
            Case in point- I was working on a SAR program where it was impossible to enter a manufacturing/assembly area without going thru security. Had good com with program manager. he worked the issues by monthly inviting various level grunts to an nearby- enclosed meal area for a late ‘ coffee and muffins ‘ breakfast meeting . Explained that he wanted to hear both good and bad issues re workarea-or office or comm problems. Most were nervous and some had been told he was very hard nose, etc, so meeting was often dull. But Once in a
            while someone would literally stand up and unload on how screwed up things were and why didn’t he . . .. When the expected lightning bolt from his fingers did not happen, and he was very attentive and admitted he did not know or would find out and fix, things got productive and he learned a lot. He also made sure that the issue was addressed -fixed and said speaker was kept in the loop and treated fairly by local management. As a result, when he left for a similiar position in other areas of the same program
            a unique ‘ farewell ‘ video was made – and sent only to about 30 or 40 participants, including yours truly.
            But that was then . . .
            He was also famous for arranging the FIRST (black and white ) photo of the earth from moon orbit. :)))

          • I’m going to agree with the comments here by Bubba2 and TransWorld, but I think it is super important to keep in mind that the biggest change in management approach that caused things to go haywire (other than the decapitalization bit) is the attitude that managers have when interacting with engineers and assembly mechanics. Harry’s BS about it no longer being a family but a team ended up being a “management is better than everyone else” message, with rank equating to human worth. It was a reversion to a medieval command and control approach, and it produced the expected results.

            What Mulally and those like him did that was different was inspire trust which led to loyalty. If he said something, you could take it to the bank. Wheras with the GE trained management system, you start out by assuming that whatever a manager says, is at very best a half truth, and that their only motivation is what’s in it for them, and that they couldn’t care less about the folks in their span of control. Those messages get delivered loud and clear throughout Boeing daily, and have since the merger, and with the expected results. Even if they hadn’t decapitalized the company, the program performances would still have been awful.

          • right on tech re stonechipher

            FWIW the following is a much repeated stony commengt

            “When I say I changed the culture of Boeing, that was the intent, so it’s run like a business rather than a great engineering firm. It is a great engineering firm, but people invest in a company because they want to make money.”

            Harry Stonecipher, 2004, former CEO of The Boeing Company, reflecting on the late 1990s

            Nothing has really changed since then. the last stock split was before the Buyout and stony.

        • Business assets make money for the owners. They dont care about the technology behind it.
          Does FBW produce profits , compared to say a better wing design that allows less takeoff thrust engines ….AND carries more fuel internally ?
          Didnt think so.

          No need for those belly fuel tanks that displace cargo revenue either. And I understand that 50% of A320/321 customers dont use the LD3 type containers at all, they load cargo /baggage they same way 737s do

          See the same simple mistakes that you keep making over and over., common in a Leninist- party- state fantasy land , where what the party decrees becomes the ‘truth’

          • As an old retired submariner COB once said in a Senior citizen class- ” Those who dont learn from history- dont learn from history “

          • “See the same simple mistakes that you keep making over and over., common in a Leninist- party- state fantasy land , where what the party decrees becomes the ‘truth’”

            Not sure how The Netherlands can be considered a “Leninist- party- state fantasy land”– I’ll just take the comparison as a sign that a certain commenter was peeved over his argument being shot down 😉

          • Not far from Airbus Group HQ in the Netherlands at Leiden ?

            I was thinking of party- state system in another place you laud constantly

          • Poor Duke.

            “Lauding” the industrial efforts of a certain country doesn’t mean that one in any way subscribes to other aspects of that country, does it?

            For example: one might “laud” Australia’s wines, but that doesn’t mean that one is equally enthusiastic about eating kangaroo or emu, does it? 😉

  16. “Rob: In the end, it doesn’t matter what Boeing or Lockheed, wants or thinks. It only matters how the USAF defines their missions and their needs.”

    I think that is incorrect. The previous competitions demonstrated capabilities, track record and realistic financial considerations got overruled.

    Selection criteria were “modified”, because in terms of track record, value for money and meeting cargo & lift requirements, the Boeing offer didn’t score good. And Airbus winning was simply unacceptable (round 2).

    For round 3 the USAF was sidelined and a narrow set of criteria were formulated to make sure the right one won. After winning there was a lot of window dressing & A decided it was political unwise, long term, to challenge the decision leading to further delays. NG saw the writing on the wall earlier & withdrew.


    This time it won’t be different. The USAF will follow orders, deal with what they get & Boeing deeply needs this long term order. Congress / committees will make sure this goes the right way. And make sure it looks fair. I think most believe this will happen again, right or wrong.

    • No, Keesje, your representation here is false, as you well know, because we’ve had this discussion before.

      In fact, the GAO found that the competition evaluation was altered to favor the MRTT. That is why the Boeing protest was upheld, and is clearly documented in the GAO ruling.

      When it was recompeted under the original evaluation criteria, EADS withdrew because they knew they couldn’t win under those criteria. The only path forward for them was to alter the evaluation.

      What you have outlined here, is a conspiracy theory that alleges the GAO was in cahoots with Boeing, or other political forces, to shift the award. That has been debunked over and over again.

      Under the recompete, the USAF could have chosen to alter the criteria to be more favorable to the MRTT. Notably, they did not. They kept the original criteria.

      The current issue, is that as noted earlier, the mission set hasn’t changed that much from KC-X to KC-Y, which means the evaluation criteria will be similar. Thus as I said, Lockheed would need to show that the LMXT is a better match for those criteria.

      • “That has been debunked over and over again.”

        Have you got a link to back up that very absolute statement, Rob?
        Or shall we assume that it’s just another personal fantasy that you’re trying to pass off as fact?

        • Bryce, I don’t have to establish what is written in the publicly available ruling. It can be downloaded by any interested party that is familiar with the Internet. Further, that link has been posted here many times in the past.

          How is it that that you can post and misquote thousands of your own links (as Mike Bohnet pointed out above), yet you can never find any link on a topic you wish to oppose?

          We are not your librarians. Do your own research. Or is your goal to oppose without reason or justification? The burden is on you to provide evidence, if you disagree with the GAO.

          • In summary:
            No, you can’t provide any link…as usual.
            Then again, it’s hard to provide a link to something that doesn’t actually exist, isn’t it?

            So, the only thing that’s been “debunked” here is yet another Rob fantasy 👍

          • No evidence, then. Got it. Per the usual.

        • Hmmm- I seem to recall a similar name with similar issues in pprune ??

          • Rob is correct and it all ignores what weight you put on what features and are they worth paying for.

            Cargo simply is a secondary consideration for a US Tanker. How other countries evaluate the trade off is not the same as none of them operate the way the US does nor do they have the cargo resources the US has.

            The stated goal of KC-X was to replace the KC-135R. The lowest cost option won.

            Round 2 was illegal as credit was given where it was not part of the proposal. The GAO rightly ruled it tipped the contract and it was not allowed and in a rare move, overturned it.

            Airbus could have bid lower than Boeing and got the contract, they elected not to.

            Arguing about it is a waste, KC-46A is a fact now and what happens going forward is what counts.

            The USAF was hell bent on a new F-35 engine as well, when they looked at the costs and impacts it was determined not to be worth it.
            You can get most of a new engine out of mods to the old engine and avoid both huge costs and as no new engine has been ever in service let alone the new type, failures in development that have to be overcome (at which point you buy more of the old F-35 engines but you have a supply chain issue that is even worse and that in turn has impacts)

            The A330MRT XLT is going to cost more, its going to take time to develop, the KC-135R continue to age and cost in maintaining those old air frames, you will have a production gap and not get anywhere near enough out of it to justify it.

            Regardless of fuel, and F-35 has to be closer to a release to mission point and that puts your tanker at risk. An A330MRT does not solve that.

      • GAO = Congress, working for payed by. And congress is as objective as congress. You have to satisfy your masters.


        After tanker round 2, everybody knew exactly what was offered by Boeing and Airbus. The LPTA procedure was created, the new bidding process was tailored exclusively for a Boeing win.


        The rest of the world chuckled in disbelieve on how the tanker deal unfolded, did their own analyses and ordered the best (14 nations) while the USAF had to deal with the KC-46.


        The Boeing camp has been trying to rewrite history on this very inglorious victory since. Which is tough, because all this falls within the Google web memory time span.

        Lets hope the KC-46 will in the end life up to its promises, because the KC135 ‘s are getting extreme mature & efficient capability is needed!

        • I would add that it would all be irrelevant if the RVS actually worked. That’s one bit of history that Boeing (and some in the procurement process on the government side) also keep trying to rewrite, showing as many demonstrations of it as possible in daylight, in calm air, and with high contrast sensing conditions, all of which is irrelevant when it comes to the actual missions that need to be performed.

          • keejse:

            The GAO has proven over and over again it works the way intended.

            Your casting dispersion on it does not change that.

            The facts of the over turn was fully supported. You obviously do not like it but that does not change the facts.

          • odd reply system here but in ref to retired tech comment
            ” BTW, did you hear the one about the 107 year old aerospace company whose balance sheet says that the shareholders owe it $15.848 billion and whose stock is trading just under $200 a share today? ”

            From my cold dead hand AFTER hell freezes over.

          • Air Force flies in clear days only, no?? Surprise, surprise!

          • @Pedro There are two ways to read your cryptic comment. One is sarcastic agreement or support with what I have pointed out, and the other is sarcastic disagreement.

            Large transport aircraft, and American stealth fighters have their midair refueling ports under a little door that is on the crown of the plane just behind the canopy. The flight crew cannot see it. Thus, once they get into the envelope for refueling, the boom operator on the tanker has to do all of the work by sticking the boom into the port. If there is insufficient contrast for the imaging system, the boom operator can’t see anything on their screen. They are literally blind.

            Exacerbating the situation is any motion of either or both planes that deviates from a perfectly smooth and level flight path. The forward position of the boom operator’s station means that the motion of their body is opposite that of the boom tip, but not as much.

            As others pointed out, my earlier assertion that the control station is over the center wing box is incorrect. It is further forward than that, which makes the problem worse. What I said earlier was based on old drawings and an early plane. I make this last point to highlight what is even a bigger problem on this program in particular, and Boeing’s many problems in general.

            In this business, and most I should think, blunt honesty about mistakes is critical. You have to get past the very human tendency to want to hide your mistakes. Getting past them and moving on has huge implications for product quality, schedule performance, and total program costs. Meeting the customers’ requirements as determined by the actual end users and not the endless chain of bureaucrats in the procurement chain, combined with schedule schedule performance are everything. Everybody makes mistakes, so you just have to accept that and move on – quickly and without recriminations or losing sleep over it. In war conditions, this has a huge impact on the casualty rate. A little more humility and blunt honesty in this forum might make the perspectives being exchanged more productive. I like and learn from them as they are, but we can do so much better than we have been. As the old saying goes: “Pride goeth before the fall.”

        • As noted, these are conspiracy theories. They have not a shred of evidence apart from the beliefs of the theorists, of which you are clearly one.

          The GAO is an oversight agency, they are not beholden to Congress or anyone else. They write reports critical of Congress, agencies, vendors, administrations, on a regular basis.

          This is on same level as faked moon landings and flat Earth, which are equally devoid of evidence, but have equally impassioned believers.

          Please, Keesje. Either provide verifiable evidence, or keep this out of the discussion. Blatant falsehoods have no relevance and only serve as a distraction.

          • I think that everyone here has made some reasonable points, but perhaps a few have occasionally placed a bit too much faith in the work of auditors (been there, done that) and people who are well removed from flying missions or deciding what sort of equipment and crews to apply to a mission requirement.

            Again, large complex organizations, whether it is the Air Force, the GAO, Boeing, Lockheed, or AB, are not entities that have a single point of view or access to data. We used to joke almost daily at times, “if Boeing only knew what Boeing knows.” I spent much of my career in Boeing working on that very issue. Just because someone is absolutely convinced that they know something, doesn’t mean that when presented with data they previously didn’t know about, that they will have to either change their minds or choose to be obtuse.

            In my experience, behind most so-called conspiracy theories, there is someone looking at a set of data that doesn’t fit someone else’s telling of the story. That doesn’t mean that either is completely right or wrong. It probably means that there is an opportunity for a synthesis and more complete picture that is probably quite a bit different from one or both perspectives.

            There are two indisputable facts about the RVS that some like to hide, others seem not to know about, and about which still others like to pretend that some technical miracle combined with enough time will make go away. It has serious issues with contrast that make the performance of some missions impossible because of that factor alone. Also, the positioning of the operator’s console above the center wing box puts the operator’s senses about the motion of the plane and the motion of the boom tip completely at odds with reality when there is anything but a perfectly smooth ride. If you combine those two, you have a technical challenge that good engineers working for over a decade have not been able to overcome. It’s just wishful thinking on a par with believing in the tooth fairy or Santa Claus to believe that two years from now RVS 2.0 is going to work any better. Meanwhile, we are extending the life of 34 KC-135 planes, and dinking around with x, y, and probably by this time next year, a z tanker proposal, as though a different plane is the answer.

            There is that old saw about the definition of insanity believing that doing that same thing over and over again is going to produce a different result.

            BTW, did you hear the one about the 107 year old aerospace company whose balance sheet says that the shareholders owe it $15.848 billion and whose stock is trading just under $200 a share today? Talk about insanity …

          • That’s forward of the position I saw on an early plane. It doesn’t matter though. Being even further forward only amplifies the problem. It does make sense though that they would have moved it forward. That would have freed up more space for cargo or other transport applications.

          • re Retired Tech comments …” Also, the positioning of the operator’s console ”

            Seems to this non pilot-non boom operator type a baisic change in operator position facing aft and maybe on stomach or similar to old position near tail would go far in the subtle spatial orientation and so called ‘ inner ear ‘ sense relative to motion and gravity issues.Did the whizzed kids ever really get inputs from grunt boom operators ??

            Or am I totally out of touch with facts, data, and common sense?

          • @ Bubba 2 – you are definitely NOT out of touch with the facts, data, or common sense. What the team did after contract award in the way of hiring former airmen with boom operator experience is not clear to me, but that sort of thing could/should have been done. What they did not do, is suggest a small concept development contract, outfit one plane with a prototype, and then go flying before committing to an FSED program based on the concept.

            This is a great example of hubris and over selling an idea.

            This is actually what I think they should do now. Take the existing fleet except for one plane, send them down to San Antonio, and reconfigure them with a conventional boom operators station. They could retain the console for the basket and probe system controls. With this approach they should be able to start delivering functional tankers in less than six month, and do so at a rate of one a month or so.

            Then, if the want to keep playing with the RVS in the one plane reserved for development, fine. If they can ever make it work, that’s fine too. This approach would minimize the costs and start making people happy.

            As an aside, they should also take a look at a rewing with the -400 wing and see if it pencils out. Certainly any 767’s yet to be built as tankers should be configured with the better wing now that they no longer have to send them out the back door of the factory.

          • “As noted, these are conspiracy theories. They have not a shred of evidence apart from the beliefs of the theorists, of which you are clearly one.”

            You haven’t provided a shred of evidence to disprove them…

          • GAO:

            To be clear, those are long term appointments as well as full time government positions that are not subject to whims of congress.

            Is it perfect? No. They can only overturn a bid and the first payment is made (so Airbus walked away with over a Billion of US tax money)

            But like the NTSB and other oversight agencies, it works better than no system at all and I am not aware of a like setup in other countries.

    • Well, at least a KC-Y competition will help whittle down the pricing for the USAF — at the expense of BA earnings on the project.

      • They would try to earn back by “service” + “parts” + “upgrades” etc..

  17. It’s quite simple, they’ll go with the KC-46A.

    The competition with LM / Airbus may keep the price of KC-46A down lower than it might otherwise be, but let’s not kid ourselves that it will be anything other than KC-46As.

    If BA are smart, they’ll charge what they want, perhaps make a profit this time, they’re getting the order.

    • The competition rules may oblige the USAF to select the entry with the lowest price…so BA probably will not have the luxury of setting a “suit yourself” price…

      • It depends on how the requirement is structured. Do not underestimate the political adjustment here.

        LMXT won’t get credit for adding extra capability if it’s not specified in the requirement.

        KC-46A will be selected.

        Interesting that Scott wrote:
        “One surrogate questioned Airbus’ safety record. This was an astounding line of attack, considering the Boeing 737 MAX history and all the scandals that emerged in its development; and the 2013 grounding of the Boeing 787 for safety reasons.”

        Probably the one very good reason to look at an alternative supplier, but yes I know KC-46A is 767 based, not a MAX, 787 or 777X.

        Why did USAF have both KC-135 and KC-10 before, why not just one fleet?

        Still quite a good thing to have some diversity, just imagine if Southwest was fully MAX before they were all grounded.

        • I fully agree that a possible competition will (be doctored to) yield the KC-46A as a winner.
          But I strongly suspect that BA will be selling the new batch of planes at a price that will put very little skin on its bones.

        • Jakdak, the rational for the KC-10 acquisition was the need to fly European missions from the US continent, in the event that European airbases were denied to NATO by the Soviets. The KC-135 was reliant on those bases. That’s why it was called the Extender.

          That need no longer exists, as the EU has its own tanker fleet, and the KC-46 is itself refuelable, so range is a much lesser issue.

          Thus the USAF would either need to do a life extension on the KC-10, or retire it. There was not a compelling reason to sustain 3 tankers.

          Today in the Pacific, the range issue has surfaced again, but the KC-46 provides a workaround.

          It might be USAF would consider a larger tanker again, for those missions. But they would rather invest in the NGAS, which has numerous other advantages.

          • If currently “European airbases were denied to NATO by the Soviets/Russia” what would happen to the EU tanker fleet?

            I get your point though about KC-46 to KC-46 refuelling, it can get complicated though, you’ll remember how it was done in Operation Black Buck … in the first raid if I remember the strike aircraft was refuelled 7 times on the way to the target.

            The Pacific is going to be a much more challenging environment in the coming years.

            It’s really time for stealthy, long range, un-crewed tankers and lots of them.

          • Rob: “Today in the Pacific, the range issue has surfaced again, but the KC-46 provides a workaround.”

            😀 here we go

          • Rob, what you say about the KC-10 is mostly right, and it is definitely true that it turned out to be a better tanker than expected. But perhaps the larger motivation for that program was to help Douglas out of a jam after their cargo door problem and the impact that had on their sales and finances. They were in trouble and the tanker contract helped them out – not enough as it turned out, but it wasn’t nothing either.

            As an aside, their cargo door issue provided great material for internal Boeing courses on fail safe engineering and failure mode analysis.

          • Little known factoid about DC-10..Failure to meet range guarantees eventually required Douglas to pay for a few empty seats on some overseas flights. So what was eventually tried was a mod of inboard trailing edge ‘ wedge ‘ configuration. ite seemed to sort of work. So after the buyout of Boeing a few of the aero whizzed kids got involved in the then aborning 737 NG- which had a few similar problems with wing and range.
            Said whizzes pushed hard to ‘ correct ‘ the NG wing with their wing. Meanwhile- back at the ranch- a genuwine boeing aero type got a bit peeved and left and founded a then local aero company – as I recall called Aviation Partners and developed the now famous winglet(s) first used at Boeing on the BBJ . The ranking Douglas aerowhiz was adamant that the inboard wedge was better, etc. So a comparison test was run. the ‘ wedge’ lost. Even so the arguments about the winglets continued. About that time, BBJ team wanted to somehow make the 737 look a bit different for the corporate execs- so they agreed to use the winglets as the equivalent of ‘ fancy hubcaps’ on your customized street rod. Provided no negative effects. AS it turned out- the effects were a bit positive re range and takeoff numbers and eventually Boeing sold a few “tricked out with winglets 737 ” to a small German airline- and the rest is history.

    • As TW pointed out, if the USAF extends the KC-X contract to cover KC-Y, they will retain the same pricing formula they have now.

      For each production lot, Boeing supplies their costs and the USAF plugs them into the formula, which generates the price. The contract is designed for the USAF to recover savings in production. Which is why the last lot was below $150M per aircraft.

      Thus there is a limit on Boeing’s production profits. So they need quantity to recover their development losses.

      There might be some adjustment to the pricing formula, at the transition. But the KC-46 is a sweet deal for the USAF, so I doubt they will yield very much on that aspect. They might yield a bit on the basis of the RVS 2.0 upgrade, which goes way beyond the original specs.

      • And if capability is added that is not in the core contract that is negotiated.

        The mechanism has been used repeatedly on US Military contracts and has worked well.

      • BA would definitely recoup every penny and much much more by charging parts and services. It’s single-sourced. Pentagon has no recourse but to beg, hat in hand. Thar’s how you kill a whale, by slowly dragging it exhausted.

  18. What seems to be missing in this discussion is what I call the ” Gillette ” business model. Sell the razor cheap and make the real money on unique razor blades.
    Lets get real- there will always be tension in the MIC Military Industrial Complex. problem is that we must always have at least a minimal industry working to provide specialized war materials like guns, missiles, planes, ships, submarines, etc. And to repair and maintain same. Airbus picked up on that game for years, making the real money on maintenance and repair or by including it as a discount to ‘sale’ price. Boeing made little money on B-52, but for decades made money on repair and refurbish. Not all bad since it kept certain facilities intact and trained people employed. but like anything, it can be overdone. For example, we now have a black powder- munitions – ignitor shortage for replenishing certain missile and bombs -ammo to replace use of stockpiles sent to Ukraine.
    So despite the ongoing arguments about KC-x,y,z issues- it does make some
    sense to stick with one brand- despite the miss- management ( not a hydroplane ) issues.

    Just my .00002 worth

    • You missed the huge argument that erupted over this issue a few weeks ago. But I essentially agree, over the life of the program, Boeing has an opportunity to recover it’s development costs. Especially if they get KC-Y, and especially if the KC-46 receives upgrades & life extensions, as other programs have.

      • Like selling an aircraft with an aging engine design, ensuring a re-engine in 15-10 yrs for the fleet.

        • The existing engine on an existing production plane was part of the USAF requirement not Boeings , who anyway dont make money for a new engine built by others.
          Remember this was back in 2008 or so when RFP was issued there was no ‘new’ engine for the 767-200 size plane. ( still isnt). There was new engines for the much bigger 787 which hadnt even flown yet.
          They certainly could have asked- and paid for- a new engine but that just wasnt going to happen at that time

      • “You missed the huge argument that erupted over this issue a few weeks ago”

        How do you know he missed it?
        We all remember that argument: you crept away and hid under a rock when @Frank proved that you hadn’t done your homework 😉

        • The fleet grounding argument is groundless.

          The US military understands they are not in a safe business and if there are issues, they mitigate them and continue ops as needed.

          There is nothing that can come up that would impact the KC-46A, its a proven airframe with well proven mods into a tanker.

        • Lol! There is a point when the ridiculous becomes absurd. That line is crossed on a regular basis here. As the GAO conspiracy theory readily proves.

          At the point of endless repetition and lack of learning, discretion is the better part of valor.

          • “Lol! There is a point when the ridiculous becomes absurd. ”

            Yes, you show us that every time you post here 😉
            Have you forgotten already that @Frank handed your ass to you on a plate?
            Or are you just pretending that that didn’t happen?

        • Uhhh Rob and Bryce- My post of yesterday was the first time in many months that I have looked at or read the various threads. So, yes I did miss whatever discussion you are posting about. I have yet to finish the thread – issue – reply re 2000-2004 time period and the beginnings of the Boeing Tanker fiasco. There is much more to that story. I got involved in the CVD and Tanker issue AFTER I had retired for a variety of reasons going back to the 80’s. In my 30 plus plus years at Boeing I worked on a few military and a few commercial programs including Minuteman, some related test work on Saturn 5 (1963-64 ), and 2707, 767, Wilo, and lastly on 777 programs. Worked with and for all types of grunts, supervisors and managers in Research, Engineering, and Tooling and who IMHO rated from Excellent to the absolute bottom of the gene pool.

          • Bubba2 – it sounds like we had very similar career tracks. I worked on Peacekeeper, then at the division level in BSD, then P-3 Update IV, then a stint in Advanced R&T, then commercial out of Everett but also supporting P-8 and 737, then over to Bellevue to do advanced systems architectures for the whole company , and finally back to Everett – two months short of 31 years. Those years when I was working at the company level I got around to most Boeing sites in the U.S. multiple times. I think Heath was the only one I missed.

  19. Here is a recent article that describes what the USAF is trying to do. They want an extension program for KC-X, that is about half of what KC-Y would have been, then accelerate the development of the NGAS program, which would replace KC-Z. We should have a decision on that this summer.


    And here is a recent article about the political opposition in Congress, to halting the competition. Notably the opposition is not universal. Some representatives thought that accelerating NGAS would give Lockheed a new opportunity to compete for that tanker, on nearly the same timeline as KC-Y.


    • The decision is made by the ones setting the selection procedure. Because both offerings are known already. Coaching USAF in setting their requirements is key.

      E.g. making sure the required payload-range isn’t bigger than what a KC46 can do. Or that program execution track record isn’t weighing in too much.

      • The USAF doesn’t need “coaching” to know what their mission is, and how to best fulfill it. My god.

        The hallmark of the conspiracy, theorist is when an official decision doesn’t agree with their belief, the only possible reason is that the process must be corrupt.

        Because, otherwise, the theorist would have to be wrong. And we all know that’s an impossibility within the known universe.

        With respect, we’ve seen this play out before here. Insistence that the FAA was corrupt in recertifying the 737 MAX. Insistence the DoJ was corrupt in the MAX DPA findings. The list goes on and on.

        All to avoid the truth, of what is plainly evident. In this case, that the MRTT was a poor match to the USAF needs, and the LMXT is likely to be an equally poor match, outside some Pacific missions.

        The USAF will do what’s best for the USAF. Not for Boeing, not for Lockheed, and not for conspiracy theorists who complain in forums.

        They are accountable to Congress, and so that may a factor, we’ll have to see. But that would be a political intervention.

        • Read the story by Scott again from the beginning of the tanker saga and maybe reconsider the claim the USAF will do whats best for the USAF .
          It was the USAF that not so long ago decided the tanker buy was to be recompeted with a different tanker requirements as the KC-Y, which could be a match to the KC-10 capability
          Remember the KC-X requirement was merely to match the re fueling capability of the 1950s build KC-135, and the USAF required over 700 of them. No way they are getting that number of ‘similar’ planes today.

          • I posted above the requirements for the KC-Y RFI, there is nothing whatever there about a tanker size change.

            There was a lot of speculation at the time, that the USAF would seek to replace the KC-10 with a similar size tanker. But there was never any statement from the USAF, to that effect.

            The KC-X criteria were based on the USAF mission set, and continue to be. If you talk to the boomers, they will tell you that even with the KC-135, most missions are not conducted at maximum capacity. The exception is extreme long range ferries of multiple aircraft.

            Thus even the KC-46 is a compromise on size. It’s even larger than it needs to be, but that is offset by other capabilities it brings
            To replace that with the LMXT, it would be flying with a relatively low partial load, for most missions. And it would cost more to fly, for each of those flights.

            Multiplied by many thousands of flights, that cost ads up. This is why EADS approached the USAF with a change in CONOPs, to reduce the number of flights and have them carry more fuel. That was the alteration that cost them the contract.

            The USAF could have adopted those CONOPs legally for the second competition. But after significant review, they did not. They retained the existing CONOPs, as the best fit.

          • The USAF can tailor its requirements to what ever suits its current generals and Secretary of the USAF
            But unless it suits Congress and the powerful committee chairs they are never going to get funded a bean for Boeings KC-46. Its clearly
            a suitable plane – for when the RFP was written almost 20 years back- and I can see some additional ordering happening.

            However they have created a rod for their own back, by getting the KC-46 designed around a KC-135 replacement and then later deciding the retire the KC-10 as well ( around 50) and replacing those units with KC-46 ( 72 built as of Nov 22)

            The Congress staffers arent fooled by the hide the pea changes and swaps arounds

        • You have to admire Rob’s strong, loyal believe it’s all fair & objective and political interests & patriotism play(ed) no role.

          Despite people getting jailed, settlements, competitions blocked, realities kicking in & the blinding flag waving.

          Bring in the popcorn for a next round of theatre on how to kill a better offer not from here, without getting dirty. USAF will be sidelined again, too objective. 🙂

          • It’s notable that when corruption truly does occur in the US, it’s brought out into the open. That is another point in favor of it not being the case for KC-X. Nothing has emerged to indicate there was any form of corruption, after more than 15 years.

            Pointing to unrelated cases and claiming they imply it “probably” happened is another tool in the theorist’s toolbox. As are claims of nationalism, flag waving, patriotism, etc.

            Everything, and anything, with the sole exception of evidence. That remains somehow forever elusive.

          • Rob, there is one very painful and notable exception to the general rule that the U.S. is fairly transparent and proactive when it comes to weeding out corruption. It’s way beyond the proper bounds of a discussion tagged onto Scott’s article, but the “Delaware problem” with respect to the way we charter corporations and enable money laundering and the international drug trade is a rather big black mark on us in this space.

          • keesje:

            Nothing is perfect and the US system for procurement is not.

            But then neither are any European systems. None of them are or ever have been.

            We keep it as clean as we can and accept its no perfect but generally with all the various balances, gets good outcomes.

            Even the F-35 is showing what it can do and that was as messed up a program that recovered as there ever was.

            The USAF has made statements that recognized how messed up the F-35 procurement was an the new bids (B-21 and NGAD) reflect that.

    • I love how Mister Calhoun presumes to speak for Airbus, as well..

      • Lol! From the article you posted:

        “Calhoun’s latest projection on the speed of recovery in the supply chain echoes comments by Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury, who told France Inter last month that production would regain pre-pandemic levels at the end of 2024 or even in 2025.”

  20. Off-topic, but often discussed here on LNA.
    As I recall, @Scott Hamilton recently broached the same topic here in an article.

    Bloomberg: “Airbus Seen Unveiling Larger A220 Single-Aisle at Paris Air Show”

    “(Bloomberg) — Airbus SE may unveil a larger version of its A220 single-aisle jetliner as soon as next month, according to analysts at Bank of America, bolstering its lineup against Boeing Co. in the best-selling category of commercial aircraft.”

    “Airbus would likely introduce a second engine choice, adding the Leap model from the CFM International venture of General Electric Co. and Safran SA, the analysts said. Currently, the A220’s two versions are powered by the Geared Turbofan unit supplied by Raytheon Co.’s Pratt & Whitney.

    “The European planemaker would also need to improve cost efficiency building the A220’s carbon-fiber composite wings, the analysts said, suggesting Airbus’s in-development “Wings of Tomorrow” may be more suitable to high-volume production.”


        • The liquid resin infusion – after the tape laying- was already done at Belfast wing factory for Cseries/A220 from the beginning.

          ‘ More importantly, these composite wings are made via liquid resin infusion, followed by a short cycle of autoclave consolidation. Composite wings for the Boeing 787 and 777X and the Airbus A350 are all fabricated using autoclave-cured prepregs. The use of infusion, therefore, represents a departure from the norm and, possibly, a harbinger of things to come”


          Dont quite follow how the Airbus and partners *Wing of Tomorrow* is touting using existing tech thats proven at the old Shorts plant

    • A different carbon fibre wing design, build process will take too long to develop and certify at multi billion cost to be used on a relatively low production numbers for an A220-500.
      Just increasing production at the Spirit wing plant will lower costs for all the wings made there

    • Adding a new wing and engines sounds like an unlikely, unnecessary investment & supply chain complication to me.

      Getting production north of 12 a month seems to get all the attention.

    • Why change the topic?


      No imminent launch of new A220 jet sub-model -Airbus

      “”But right now, the A220-100 and A220-300 are priority and we’re not looking to launch a new sub-model in the current environment,” the spokesperson added.

      Speculation of an imminent launch circulated on Wednesday after some media highlighted a Bank of America note suggesting Airbus would launch the new sub-model at the June 19-25 air show.

      The Airbus spokesperson did not discuss a specific event, but two industry sources ruled out an air show announcement.

      A larger version of the loss-making A220 program, acquired from Canada’s Bombardier in 2018, would help lower total A220 production costs but eat into a market currently served by the 150-seat A320neo, a core part of Airbus’s narrow-body family.

      Most industry sources expect an A220-500 launch to be closer to the middle of the decade.

      Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury has meanwhile indicated that resolving industrial delays is the planemaker’s top priority amid continued pressure on small suppliers.”

      • @Williams

        I agree. Airbus does not need to launch the A220-500 now. What they need to do is work on getting the supply chain fixed, for both the A320 and the A220 – while working their way up to the 75/14 per month production rate. That’s going to be tough enough as it is.

        Also – the main benefit of the A220 is the cheap (relatively) capital costs needed to get the -500 to market, with a plug fore and aft of the wing, keep everything the same and lose some range. The key is to keep it under 150 pax in a two class config, so that airlines can use 3 stews instead of 4.

        Then this opens the door for an A320.5 with new wings and the A321Neo/LR/XLR covering the upper NB niche.

        But Airbus doesn’t need to do a darn thing. The next incremental change is in BA’s court; they have to do something as market share slips away

  21. Interesting the complaints about the US Bid system.

    Many countries do not even have bids, they assign equipment (aircraft, armor vehicle, engines) to a group and that is the end of it.

    If a US company wants to bid in another country, they adhere to the bid process or they don’t get to bid.

    Some years back Delta put out a tender for new aircraft, afterwards it was obvious that they just used Boeing to get better pricing from Airbus.

    Airbus was used to get good pricing and they could have taken the bid if they were willing to bid low. As it was due to the way bids work, they walked away with a sweet billion plus before the bid was over turned (awards should be made AFTER but they are not)

    Trying to make a KC-46A and an A330MRT directly comparable is impossible.

    Even with offsets someone has to come up with a table that assigns a value to a capability and then when does it kick in?

    As Scott noted, the trigger to do so was not even close.

    None of the following was compete, A400, Rafale, Tiger , Typhoon, NH-90. On the other hand when a gap develops, US Kit is bought. Because its well tested and proven. Even France buys C-130-J.

    The KC-X was in the US and the ground rules were clear and Airbus elected to participate. Well done and over and move on.

    • It just would be nice if we could have a reasonable discussion about the KC-46 and the LMXT, without all the baggage of the Boeing/Airbus conflict being dragged in. Or claims of political intrigue.

      Even Scott is guilty of this, when he references people raising safety issues about Airbus, and countering with the MAX accidents.

      I can tell you from my life in the real world, that those issues are magnified a thousand fold in this forum. The people who are looking at this objectively, don’t care about any of that. It would never even occur to me to raise safety as determining factor. Both aircraft have an excellent safety record. As do the tankers that precede them.

      It’s just about capability, and suitability to mission, which encompasses cost as well.

      I’ve pointed out that Lockheed needs to make the case that LMXT is a better match. So what arguments could they make? What positive evidence, on the merits, could encourage the USAF to hold the competition? And then to select the LMXT, either competitively or separately? That is what’s actually relevant. A discussion of that would be interesting.

      Pointing at the past development flaws of either aircraft is not really relevant. First because it’s a negative argument, that seeks to undo something already done, and secondly because we can presume the USAF has full knowledge of those issues, in far greater detail than we do. They will already have considered and accounted for all of that. Shouting them at the USAF, will have zero impact on their decision. What could have impact, is positive advantages that LMXT could bring.

        • Oh please as if the largest military vendor Lockheed could not sell the benefits of the KCY. If its good it will have a chance, if its not what DOD is looking for then so be it.

          • Looks like you’re overlooking the European component of the Lockheed offering…

          • Nope, but LM can apply just as much “influence” if not more so, than Boeing, Northrop, General Dynamics…… If the product fits the mission, LM can do its part to help it cross the finish line.

            Since we are looking for conspiracy theories.

          • Not sure what plain and simple nationalistic politics* has to do with “conspiracy theories” — but do feel free to blow the same old trumpet 🙄

            * e.g. there’s already a stipulation that defense purchases must comprise (at least) a certain US content percentage.

          • And Lockheed Martin is inept of persuading the Pentagon if its product is solid? Building it in Mobile takes care of the US componentry part. Who is the larger defense contractor? Boeing or Lockheed? You think Boeing has the ability to smooze generals better than Lockheed/Airbus?

            If the “buy Boeing product” sentiment was so strong as you put it, LM would not have wasted its time, resources, and political capital on the project. Maybe the DOD will choose Boeing ( we do not know) because for them its the “better” product.

            As much as that may rock your world or premise you spent considerable time in numerous comment sections setting up, it is that simple. Or we can excuse the decision away in conspiracy stories.

          • @ williams

            I didn’t say “buy Boeing product”– I referred to a “buy US” campaign.

            Regardless of where LM’s product is assembled, it has much more EU content in it than the BA product does…right?

            Surely you can pick up on the negative PR connotations of the USAF abandoning further purchases of an “all-American” product and instead turning to an EU product? Or does that have to be spelled out for you?

          • I’m mostly trying to avoid this tit for tat about supply chain sourcing, but often it is the case the sourcing in another country results in more, not less American product being produced due to the sales that are generated. One does have to be careful about tech transfer, but even that can work both ways when it comes to tooling technology. In a similar vein, sometimes vertically owned capacity ends up being significantly underutilized if you are unwilling to become a supplier to your competitor(s). The commercial side of the old Boeing Wichita division ended up with a lot more business once they were no longer exclusively a Boeing supplier. Wichita’s defense side is another story. Shutting it down was arguably a shortsighted move. The Wichita aerospace talent pool was arguably quite a bit better than that in OKC.

          • Again, if the road to an order was such an uphill battle, LM would not have wasted its time.

            No doubt the same argument you are making was rehashed many times within LM and between LM and Airbus. It is all about money, can we win this or not. If not, use that political capital elsewhere.

          • “Again, if the road to an order was such an uphill battle, LM would not have wasted its time.”

            There are other reasons to compete, other than in an attempt to actually win.
            Those have been discussed here — can’t you find them?
            I’ll give you a hint: go look at the very first comment above.

      • “It just would be nice if we could have a reasonable discussion about the KC-46 and the LMXT, without all the baggage of the Boeing/Airbus conflict being dragged in”

        It would be nice if we could have a discussion without lots of broad, sweeping, baseless statements being made by people who can’t / won’t provide links to back up what they write 😉


        “Even Scott is guilty of this, when he references people raising safety issues about Airbus, and countering with the MAX accidents.”

        See yourself as some sort of judge now, do you? Attributing “guilt” to journalists whose narrative doesn’t suit yours?

      • “I can tell you from my life in the real world, that those issues are magnified a thousand fold in this forum.”

        What you call your “real world” is actually a highly-personalized bubble in which you indulge yourself in an alternate reality.
        Going on a tirade against this forum and its authors is just your typical sulking response to the fact that you can’t manipulate the discussion here.
        In the past, you chided and derided Scott on a number of occasions for failing to apply censorship to your taste — and you got kicked from the site twice for doing so.
        If you can’t stand the heat, then just get out of the kitchen.

        • loose the condescension and you would be easier to have a conversation with. Despite what you think, yours, mine , Scott’s or anyone else’s views or opinions do not mean a thing to those making the decision in this matter.

    • None of the US fighters bombers, airlifters were open to design-build competition for european manufacturers. None at all, although they could be a supplier to the US maker for various parts/ sections. See the F-35 where UK was a T1 supplier for Lockheeds design and RR (USA) the lift fan section

      The tanker competition was unusual in that it was a requirement for an *existing in production civilian plane* that could be adapted for tanker role. No clean sheet designs allowed.
      Some countries have bought 767 tankers , Italy Japan come to mind and Israel but thats done with US military aid money which has to be spent in US

      • Duke:

        Both true and fair.

        To be clear, I have no issue with how Europe runs its defense programs. But the US has come out with some outstanding systems the way its done here.

        And yes there have been some serious bad ones (the F-35 program could not have done more wrong and still actually succeeding). Ford class carrier the same . Its goes in cycles, the US Military just has to try tested and failed mechanisms (concurrent production)

        While I think and have solid evidence that many US programs are rock solid (HIMARS, Patriot, Chinook, P-8/E-7) those are not taken always taken up (AH-64, Brits did, French and Germans took up the Tiger).

        So, its a disappointment when I think the best system does not win or even given a trial, that is for those countries to decide their defense base and how to go about it.

        Equally the US has that same right and usually its a good outcome system (C-17). It does not mean its perfect, there never has been a defense system that was. Sometimes they get cancelled (Sgt York) sometimes they finally succeed (C-17/F-35)

        I would hope others respect the US system instead of insisting against all evidence its all corruption. There are always political aspects and all US Corps try to put their fingers on the scales.

        Its very difficult to come up with criteria that test to real world conditions. I don’t think for a second the NH-90 set out to have issues but they did and by this time those should have been cleared up.

        Patriot also partially failed, but they saw where and how it was failing and worked to fix it. True battlefield conditions are virtually impossible to test for, only that experience shows the gaps and what needs to be fixed.

        Clearly the A330MRT was a significant success but it had its issues and those have been overcome.

        But it was not envisioned as a KC-X and the US made a decision on specs and bid process.

        We now see that the cargo aspect is no longer a bid aspect as its now the range and fuel offload that is touted. But even cargo is a question as main deck vs belly has its own aspects that arguably main deck is better (faster, larger containers or pallets, system in place for off load).

        The GAO only rules a violation (overturn) a contract if they assess it as so badly violated that it changed the outcome. Its a unique US system and its been successful.

        LM and Boeing contested the last Vertical Lift contract, they got shot down. They not only failed to prove a violation, they actually did not meet the terms of the bid miserably. So the two biggest US defense behemoths got shot down. The political theory says they should have won.

        The KC-Y is said and done, the discussion should revolve around does the A330MRT LXT bring enough to the table to be worth more (Lockheed has clearly stated its features they would win on).

        Obviously I think they should do KC-46A and focus on the next tanker and see what they can do with a clean sheet design. Clearly they could focus on range and long distance fuel offload, but I have yet to see anyone present a stealthy tanker design nor discussion on how you achieve that and would the USAF have to give up on its boom obsession (the USAF is the only force in the world that thinks a fighter has to use a boom, others buy what comes out of that (F-15) but all free designs use the hose and drogue)).

      • “None of the US fighters bombers, airlifters were open to design-build competition for european manufacturers.”

        There are always workarounds, e.g.: Supermarine Spitfire, De Havilland Mosquito, Bristol Beaufighter, Airspeed Horsa, MD V/STOL

        Never say never, if you do know any better.

  22. I don’t believe in an A220-500 soon. Cannibalizing the A320neo through another aircraft with a non-Airbus cockpit really puzzles me.

    I don’t think Airbus will make this mistake…

    • Its not a matter of if but when. The fuel savings means it will happen

      • It’s more complex than just fuel saving.
        You cannot overlap one product on top of the other.

        IMHO, the only thing I see is rather a cockpit commonality with the A32Xneo family and a readjustment of the A320.5neo, A321.5neo size to give seat term growth

        In truth I only see A220-100, A220-300.5, A320.5neo, A321.5neo, (2-classes 110, 140, 162, 197 seats) this will make 2 coherent products with the same cockpit without canibalisation…

        Imagine Airbus occupying a colossal 2-class market with 110 to 200 seats. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

        But not in a “hazardous way” as you indicate with an A220-500 overlapping…

        • I think you see too much in the type rating differences between A220 and A320 . They exist but it doesnt matter that much except for a few airlines

          Interesting fact.
          In Europe the 777 and 787 are considered to share the same type rating ( with some differences)
          While the US FAA considers they are separate.

  23. Boeing has reported a cumulative loss of $6-7 billion on its tanker program.
    That’s about half the cost of a clean sheet MMA.
    Of course, had they not suffered this loss those monies would have gone straight to the shareholders, not to R&D, so either way it’s wasted.

    • John,

      Well you could think of it as a jobs program and its not as wasted as Boeing would normally do!

  24. Interesting article — gives us some insights into the current relationship between the USAF and BA:

    “GAO blasts T-7 delays, cites ‘tenuous’ Air Force-Boeing relationship”

    “WASHINGTON — Boeing’s effort to build a new trainer aircraft for the Air Force is plagued by safety problems, schedule and testing delays, and the risk the T-7A Red Hawk could fall even further behind schedule, the Government Accountability Office said in a scathing report.

    “Boeing’s relationship with the Air Force has also been strained by the T-7′s issues, GAO said in the May 18 report, with service officials describing their ties as “tenuous.”

    “As the program proceeds and Boeing losses, which already exceed $1 billion, mount, GAO said, program officials expect more disagreements between the Air Force and the contractor. While the Air Force waits for the T-7 to be delivered, its own costs related to maintaining older jets could grow, the report warned.”

    “The T-7 has seen several schedule delays. Most recently, problems with a potentially dangerous escape system and ejection seat caused the Air Force to postpone to February 2025 a milestone C production decision on the T-7. The Air Force originally expected that decision to come in late 2023.

    “This means Boeing is now expected to start delivering the T-7 in December 2025, and the Air Force is preparing for it to reach initial operational capability in spring 2027 at the earliest. That would be nearly a decade after the Air Force originally hoped to have student pilots flying in its advanced trainer.

    “But program officials told GAO that even the new schedule Boeing laid out in January 2023 is “likely optimistic” because it “depends on favorable assumptions.”

    “Boeing’s revised T-7 schedule assumes the program will have a high success rate through the rest of its development and testing, Air Force officials told GAO. This leaves “little to no margin” for error, including test failures, unexpected software revisions, a possible need to redesign the escape system, or other surprises, GAO said.

    “If something goes wrong, the report added, the T-7 program could fall even further behind — perhaps significantly so, potentially jeopardizing even the revised production decision date and further pushing back production and delivery.

    “The Air Force is now planning to have the T-7′s development, testing and production phases considerably overlap, GAO said, which will add a great deal more risk to the schedule.”

    “The T-7 could also change significantly between the test phase and the award of a low-rate production contract, which would then have to be retrofitted on already-built planes, GAO said. DCMA has already spotted more than 8,000 differences between the five test T-7s Boeing has already built, and the Air Force’s own contract specifications, the report added.”



  25. OK, Children, clean it up or I will close comments.


    • Hi Scott, could you please do an article how much Boeing sucks, so certain posters can fill that comment section up with opinionated stated as fact comments to their heart’s content. Then maybe they will leave Boeing’s financials out of every other comment section no matter what the article’s subject is about.

      Just an idea.

      • LNA already writes many such articles — hadn’t you noticed?

        For example:



        And regarding BA’s financials: they’re critical to every aspect of the company, aren’t they? For example:
        – Ability to launch a new product.
        – Ability to retain/hire talent.
        – Funding to improve QC.
        – Freedom to adjust pricing in competitive scenarios.

        Didn’t you know that…?

        • And yet you find a way to weasel in your opinions on Boeing’s finances in every comment section. And when commenters leave you in your echo chamber to go to another comment section to talk about a different subject, you follow with the same tired Boeing posts.

          If Scott writes an article on Unicorns, you will find a way to bring Boeing’s finances in the argument, ” yeah, and I bet Boeing looses money on every Unicorn dreamt by a child”. It is beyond comical.

          • And yet, if you look carefully at the comments in the current article, the first reference to BA’s financials wasn’t made by me!
            Can you find the culprit?

            Having a bad day today, aren’t you?

          • If you see the sunrise, its a good day.

            Stock market being up 328 helps too.

            If I may quote Ice Cube, “Today was a good day.”

            Just calling attention to a recurring issue.

          • “Just calling attention to a recurring issue.”

            Here’s another recurring issue for you: a certain group of commenters — some of whom have very little substance in their comments — getting into a temper when the narrative on BA is realistic rather than idealistic.


          • You could say some commenters are obsessive about it.

  26. The USAF needs a capability at a cost. Those two are closely related.

    By setting a capability requirement or budget you almost make a choice because both offerings are well known.

    So operational requirements and the selection process parameters, that’s probably where LM & Boeing are aiming their lobbyists, just like in 2010.


    And of course invent some suitable selection criteria of your own & put them out in the media !

    • Everyone plays that game, ignore it and focus on the real issues.

      The infamous A400 Turboprop is a case in point where politics won out. It certainly cost a huge amount.

      In the end its being worked out.

  27. Regarding pricing of the KC-46A:

    Quoting from the Defense News article below:
    “Over the past month, Boeing has inked contracts with the U.S. Air Force for the sixth and seventh lots of KC-46 production, raking in $3.8 billion for an additional 27 tankers.”

    That’s $140.75M per plane.

    The current list price of a 767-300F is $220.3M. Due to all the adaptations involved, a nominal “list price” of a KC-46A would be a lot higher — how about somewhere in the range $350M – $400M?

    Taking the lower of those figures, the USAF got a 60% discount on this nominal “list price”; if we take the higher figure, then the discount rises to 65%.

    Doesn’t that sound familiar from BCA’s recent sales of commercial aircraft?



    And now for some A330 MRTT pricing:
    – France paid $4.4B for 12 of them, giving a unit price of $366.7.
    – India was tendered “more than $2B” for 6 of them, giving a (lower bound) unit price of $333.3M.
    – South Korea paid $1.3B for 4 of them, yielding a unit price of $325M.


    Looks like the USAF got mouthwatering unit pricing from BA.

    • The difference in pricing can usually be explained by spares, training etc. being included or excluded. For additional aircraft those cost should be lower.

      • Yes, I know — it’s only intended as a rough calculation.
        But it’s enough to show that BA isn’t making rich pickings on the latest order of KC-46As.

        Incidentally, if you take the USAF’s original tender for 179 aircraft at $40B, you end up with just $223M per aircraft — which is better than the figure above for the top-up order, but still well short of the A330 MRTT pricing.

        • Love to know which MRTT customer is getting bulk order pricing for 179 units ?

          Oh thats right , you made up a comparisons between those Airbus customers getting ….well who knows how your cherry picking works.
          Of course the development costs in 1980s money of the 767 were written off over the 900 plane orders.

          latest USAF 2023 order is 15 planes for $2.25 bill or $166 mill each ( dont know if it includes government furnished equipment like engines or sensitive electronics
          List price of 767F is currently around $220 mill, so actual order price could be $120- $150 mill for major customers like FedEx or UPS.
          So doesnt appear that USAF is underpaying compared to other 767 type buyers

          • Ah yes: your well-established difficulty understanding simple financial calculations…

          • @Bryce

            ‘List price of 767F is currently around $220 mill, so actual order price could be $120- $150 mill for major customers like FedEx or UPS.’

            I guess he’s saying that Fedex and UPS get only a 45% to a 32% discount for their aircraft.

            Those guys at Fedex and UPS are some really bad businessmen – everyone else getting 65% and they are getting taken to the woodshed.

            Who knew?

  28. More on the souring relationship between BA and the USAF:

    “Boeing refused to give cost data for nearly 11,000 replacement parts, Pentagon says”

    “The data denials for 10,659 items under a single contract accounted for 97% of such refusals by contractors during negotiations from October 2020 through September 2021, according to a previously undisclosed Pentagon assessment submitted to House and Senate defense committees.

    “Boeing’s “refusal to provide basic transparency on cost and pricing information represents a breach of the company’s duty to government, taxpayers and our service members,” Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative John Garamendi, Democratic members of the Senate and House Armed Services committees, wrote in a letter to Boeing Chief Executive Officer David Calhoun dated Wednesday.”

    “The lawmakers described Boeing as a “particularly bad actor,” saying it gave “absurd and unacceptable” reasons for not providing the data. Warren and Garamendi demanded that Boeing provide answers about its policies by June 12.

    “”All 10,659 items reported by the Air Force were associated with Boeing Defense Space and Security and Boeing Global Services, under a single contract action,” according to the report. The contract in question wasn’t identified.”

    “The Warren-Garamendi letters and the Pentagon report raise questions about the military’s ability to get the best prices for parts, especially when faced with sole-source suppliers like Boeing and TransDigm that refuse to provide pricing data for a number of reasons. Senior military contracting officers approved the contracts despite the denial of data because the parts were considered vital.

    “The legislators also wrote Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asking for information about what steps his department is taking to prevent “price-gouging when companies refuse to provide requested cost or pricing data.” Boeing’s denial of data makes it impossible for the Pentagon to make sure it’s “not being ripped off,” they wrote. A Pentagon spokesperson didn’t have an immediate comment.”


    • So, we now have a USAF that is openly expressing discontent with regard to several aspects of its relationship with BA, namely:
      – KC-46A.
      – T-7.
      – Pricing info on spare parts.

      Not a good idea to p#ss off people who put bread on your plate.

      • How did Airbus relationship with various Airforces over the A400M go ?

        Thats right Airbus held the whip hand and they used it.
        Love to watch how the new Dassault-Airbus French-German-Spanish fighter jet program eventuates

        UFC will have new competition

        • Airbus isn’t financially on its knees and dependent on defense orders to help keep the lights on.
          A “certain other OEM” is.

        • @ Duke
          Just look how well the A400 sells against the C130

      • And the F-35 procurement office is flaked off at LM for the F-35 debacle.

        First and foremost you need to know what contact and what the contract language is. LM kept all the rights for the F-35. Everyone went along with that, now, not so much.

        Right of wrong, with a low bid contract on the T-7A, Boeing is not doing anything extra they don’t get paid for. So Boeing and the USAF hash it out, sometimes contentiously.

        If it gets bad enough the USAF can take Boeing to court. No its not a great way to deal with it but its an option (or the threat to do so if they think they are really right)

        The ejection seat is presently an issue, I do not know who agreed to what on that program. Sometimes there is government supplied equipment (engines). Sometimes its government specified.

        Some of the reports are dated and the issue has been resolved (wing rock). Others may come up as you need the production standard units to confirm. So it goes.

        The USAF was flaked off at Boeing over the RVS and now they are happy campers.

        Taking a snap shot data point gives you bad results, be it too negative or too positive, its never spot on. That is why thinking people get facts and information and do so over time so you get a true sense of how things are going.

        Having read the pilot reports on the KC-46A, the capability in not just flight ops (which is a modern aircraft) but the systems that support the ops and domain awareness are a delight.

        KC-46A would be far better than the KC-135R in a contested ops situation. Nothing against the long serving and solid KC-135, but it does not have the systems the KC-46A has and adding them in is costly and may not work or take a lot of development.

        If things got into a contested situation, the US would make decisions based on capabilities and work around the problems. USAF has stated exactly that if there was a combat need for the KC-46A.

        A Sherman tank was not an ideal weapon tank on tank, but they ran, they had capabilities others did not, there were a heck of a lot of them and they had a solid support operation behind them that kept lots of them at the pointy end of the spear.

        Its all shades of things in between, its not ever just one or the other.

      • This is a bit overblown. The USG has hundreds of contracts with Boeing. The vast majority have no issue.

        The major problems have revolved around the fixed-cost contracts that were negotiated under Muilenburg. The KC-46, the VC-25B, and the T-7.

        Calhoun has said he wouldn’t do that again, as has the USAF. But for now they just have to push through, as DoD is an important customer.

        • Thats a good point . Compare to Airbus and its contract with the customer AF for the A400M. While Airbus absorbed some losses the buyers were told the old contract was ripped up and new prices apply.
          The end result seems very satisfactory but I think some customers reduced the orders because of ‘out of contract’ payments.
          Airbus also said ‘ we would never structure the deal that way again’

          The A380, the A400M, the A340 residuals payouts, the bribery fines means that tens of billions werent returned to shareholders nor spent on new product investment.
          Yet to come is the costs for negligence for the A330 Air France Atlantic crash that the Paris court found Airbus was civil responsible

          • Why Airbus had to resort to bribing is comical. The fact they got caught shows who inept they were.

        • “This is a bit overblown”

          – The GAO — which Rob worships as an organization — publicly wipes the floor with BA’s handling of the T-7, and refers to a “tenuous” relationship between the USAF and BA;
          – A group of prominent US lawmakers publicly refers to BA as a “particularly bad actor”;
          – A high-ranking military officer publicly refers to the KC-46A as a lemon,

          …and that’s “a bit overblown”?

          Poor BA: its commercial aircraft profits have melted away, and now it’s p#issing off its biggest defense customer — but all its increasingly desperate PR Dept. can say is that the situation is “a bit overblown”… 😉

          • Bryce, if you read my post, I said the issues were related to the fixed cost contracts.

            The KC-46 contract became contentious because of the dispute over what constitutes an in-scope design change. That’s a frequent issue in fixed-cost contracts. But they worked it out. I’m sure they will work this out too.

            From experience in my own business, it was necessary to clearly established the goals and risks, in order to avoid scope creep and the conflict that evolves from that.

          • Alternatively:

            Rob, if you read my post, I said the issues were related to p#issing off a customer on which one is dependent.

            The KC-46 contract became contentious because of the dog’s dinner that BA made of it. That’s a frequent issue in BA contracts. They’re trying to clean up the mess but it’s proceeding at a glacial pace. Just like the T-7.

            From experience in my own business, it’s not a good idea to mess up contracts with important customers, in order to avoid severe revenue erosion.”

    • Does USG has the backbone to stand up against price gouging by defense contractors??

      -> Boeing refused to give the Pentagon cost data for almost 11,000 replacement parts over a year, according to a congressionally mandated report intended to shine a light on some military contractors’ opaque pricing data.

      • AFAIK, the pricing issue on the KC-46 parts was worked out with the USAF some time ago. As I recall, it was a misunderstanding.

        I don’t know if this letter from Congress is regarding a new issue, or the same one. If it’s new, I haven’t heard about it from anyone at Boeing.

        For the T-7 program, the GAO report says the reason is that Boeing has not finalized contracts with many of the suppliers. That’s likely because of uncertainty in the timing of the USAF contracts, and potential design changes.

        The report also says the USAF officials stated there is time remaining for Boeing to finalize the contracts and submit the data.

        As of now, Boeing only has a contract for 2 aircraft, which they have delivered. They are building the next 5 without a contract, trying to stay ahead and sustain the production line.

        That’s risky as the USAF could reject those aircraft. But is probably preferable to shutting down the line and cancelling or deferring the supplier contracts.

        • “As I recall, it was a misunderstanding”

          Have you got a link for us on that ?


          “I haven’t heard about it from anyone at Boeing.”

          Good Lord! How can the BA Back Office undertake its damage control efforts if it’s not being adequately informed of the fires to be put out? 😉


          Regarding the T-7: no “clarification” required — the GAO report is perfectly clear in its many criticisms. It makes very interesting — and depressing — reading.

          • I wonder how @Rob can jump in and point out the replacement parts are specifically connected with KC-46 and T-7 programs. BA still has many legacy programs with USAF. Remember, the period covered in the report is 2020-2021!

          • Time rewind:
            L A Times – Boeing Cancels Bill to Pentagon for Repayment of Political Gifts

            The Boeing Co. billed the American taxpayer for at least $126,847 in […] political contributions, adding the cost to the price of weapons systems it built for the Pentagon. But the aerospace giant abruptly withdrew the request for reimbursement Monday within hours after the billing had been reported by the Associated Press.

          • -> “The charges are among $14.9 million in bills submitted by defense contractors that have been challenged by the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Among them are $4.6 million for General Dynamics, $4.5 million for Rockwell International and $1.5 million for United Technologies Corp.

            Earlier Monday, Carr had confirmed the billings listed by the auditors as inappropriate, saying that such expenses are *billed to the government routinely* as part of the company’s overall cost of doing business.

            The Pentagon does allow contractors to charge the government for certain public relations costs and does not specifically ban reimbursement for political contributions, but Pentagon auditors call them unallowable.”

        • Pedro and Bryce, if you have evidence that the cited issue is separate from the former issue, I’m happy to be corrected. It wasn’t clear from the articles I read.

          Also this claim came from Congress, not the GAO. Congress often gets things wrong, and even corrects itself (see 737 MAX), so I’ll wait to hear the response from DoD.

          The GAO claim was on provision of sustainment data. The USAF got burned on the F-35 because they gave Lockheed contractual authority to manage the supply chain. They are pulling back on that now.

          The Boeing situation is different, there is no allegation that Boeing is anything but late in supplying the data, and the USAF itself gave the reason why.

          • Alternatively:

            “Rob, if you have evidence that the cited issue is the same as this former issue to which you allude, I’m happy to be corrected.”

            You made the claim, Robbie — so you need to provide the back-up evidence.


            It didn’t just “come from Congress”: the Pentagon was also involved.

            “The data denials for 10,659 items under a single contract accounted for 97% of such refusals by contractors during negotiations from October 2020 through September 2021, according to a previously undisclosed Pentagon assessment submitted to House and Senate defense committees.”


            “The Boeing situation is different, there is no allegation that Boeing is anything but late in supplying the data”

            “…saying it (BA) gave “absurd and unacceptable” reasons for not providing the data”


            Looks like someone is slipping down the rabbit hole again…

          • It is perhaps worth keeping in mind the huge difference between Lockheed’s and Boeing’s traditional business models. I stress “traditional” here, because my focus is on the premerger Boeing model, not the decapitalization one that began after the merger.

            Boeing people have always had a lot of admiration for what the folks at Lockheed do. They produce amazing products. It’s an attempt to sustain the legacy of Kelly Johnson and the skunkworks. They consistently push the envelope much further than anyone else, or Boeing would dare to even try. It’s this culture of pushing the envelope so hard at Lockheed that really made it impossible for them to produce cost effective products for the commercial markets.

            There have always been big risks in pushing the envelope the way Lockheed does, but in the age of complexity that began sometime around 1990, they have become extremely difficult, if not impossible to consistently manage.

            In a nutshell, whenever electronics or compiled software are involved in a product, it is impossible to assemble a team in one room that collectively can be said to fully understand how it works. That’s a bold statement, but unfortunately a true one.

            On the electronics side, it’s the chips. The many billions of IC components in them, and some of their autonomous functions such as self healing, make it next to impossible to figure out what is going on inside them. There are a few people on the planet with the skills to do this, but very few. If you look at the chip manufacturing supply chain, from functional design through fab, and include the tooling necessary to do the fab, the amount of stuff going on in even the simplest least cost chip is staggering.

            Compiled software has the same issue. When building the runtime of a program, the linker pulls in an enormous amount of stuff that runs into many millions of lines of assembly language code. It’s simply impossible to draw a completely accurate functional diagram of how the code works. Put these two together, and you have a complexity management challenge that is significant.

            Lockheed is probably better at this task than Boeing, but the software in their advanced platforms such as the F-22 and F-35 are stupendously complex. I struggle to find words to properly suggest just how enormous this challenge really is. We’re talking numbers that are usually associated with such fields as microbiology and astrophysics. But at least at Lockheed, the engineering management team seems to understand the challenge and has some fairly effective ways of dealing with it, even though it still gets away from them on a regular basis. At Boeing, I’m convinced that the engineering leadership doesn’t even have a clue as to just how big and serious the complexity management challenge really is. As for the C-suite at Boeing – fahgettaboutit.

          • Keeping in mind how far behind LM is on the F-35 software and they had to give heave ho to the original maint software because it could not be made to work.

            A fairly mundane program like KC-Y that LM just assembles an airframe?

            Their business model is value added (or that is the PR) and there is nothing that adds value to justify LM and Airbus both making 10% profits putting an A330MRT LXT at 30% higher cost than a KC-46A.

            Not to mention how many years it would take to build and then get a FAL going in an all new location. Ungh.

  29. Well over 30 years ago, China tried to make their own “707”- AFIK it never got off the ground. By the mid 90’s douglas wanted to ‘ help’- and Boeing had established some parts manufacturing in Xian ( think terra cotta soldiers ). bejing traffic was majority bicycles with a few new ‘ roads ‘ being established for autos.
    A lot of internal air transport was by Russian version of 727 into miiitary run airfields.- landing techniques were like a D ticket ride at Disneyland- level flight till approach then push stick forward with a bit of negative g, and when getting close to ground use a bit of positive g to level out.

    Times have changed..

  30. BA is now clawing back on its cashflow guidance for 2023.
    Intriguingly, it’s now also saying that “it will be disciplined in setting jet prices”.


    Bit late for that price “discipline”: anything sold now won’t be generating booked revenue for years — and, in the meantime, all the prior sales made at bumper discounts won’t be generating earnings.

    • ‘Meanwhile, West said the top end of Boeing’s $3 billion to $5 billion free cash flow forecast was a “bit pressured,” in part due to supply-chain problems at its ailing defense business, even as the planemaker maintained that goal.’

      Services seems to be the only bright spot.

    • Boeing said this also in the Q1 earnings call. The cash flow is just deferred in time, not eliminated.

      • “..just deferred in time”.

        what a turn of phrase. 😉

      • And yet, when incoming cash is “deferred in time”, that can create big problems for a company that has painful interest payments every quarter…

      • “The cash flow is just deferred in time, not eliminated.”

        Have you got a link to back that up, Rob?
        Or did it come out of that rabbit hole again? 😉

        • As noted, Q1 earnings call. But you automatically disregard that information, so it’s meaningless to you.

          • A transcript of the Q1 earnings call is available online, Rob.
            Go ahead and post it, together with a quote of the relevant passage(s) in which you think/fantasize that the relevant assertion was made.

            Until then: just the rabbit hole…

          • You are correct that the transcript is available online, which means it is available to you also.

            Demanding that others post links has long been a dodge used in lieu of argument. Especially since you have no intention of accepting the data you demand to be produced.

            We understand your methods, Bryce. They don’t work. Which is apparently obvious to most people here, except yourself.

          • @ Rob

            Who’s going to spend time poring through a transcript to find something that exists only in your imagination…?

            Just in this LNA article alone, that’s now (at least) 5-6 points on which you’ve failed to provide any evidence when asked.

            The Yellow Brick Road certainly is long and winding…

  31. “Boeing needs more Chinook, Osprey orders to keep Delco helicopter assembly lines running”

    “Boeing Corp.’s top helicopter officials say the company needs more orders, or it will have to plan for the closing of the two main assembly lines at its Ridley Park complex along the Delaware River, the largest heavy-manufacturing employer in the Philadelphia area.

    “The Delaware County plant’s production of updated Chinook CH-47F heavy-lift helicopters has fallen to around 20 a year, from 60 in 2021 and 2022, said Heather McBryan, the Boeing vice president who heads that program.

    “That is about the “minimum sustainable rate” that keeps the plant’s many suppliers busy enough to stay open, McBryan said.”


    • From the link:

      “It’s not yet clear, however, if the Air Force will certify RVS 2.0 for covert refueling. There are still “operational restrictions” on the technology as it exists today, Boeing officials said.

      “The Air Force has not yet validated the upgrades. “We have to see RVS 2.0 in the Air Force testing system,” Renfro said. “Boeing’s done a lot of work in that, but we haven’t seen on the Air Force side through developmental tests or IOT&E. So until we get to that point, I can’t really say what it’s going to deliver us in terms of combat capability. But we’ll put it through the paces, and I have every confidence it’ll bring us quite a bit.” “

    • The real issue here is that an R&D effort has no frigging business being the cornerstone of an FSED production program. It is both unethical and extremely stupid. It betrays a complete lack of understanding of how advance technologies are developed and evolved into workable production solutions. This is a tacit condemnation of both the Boeing people involved in promoting it and the government procurement folks who bought into such incompetence.

      An retire Boeing exec friend of mine accuses me of stealing his lines every time I say it, but T Wilson must be rolling in his grave.

      • If you examine the history of what actually happened, Boeing proposed a modification of the KC-767 vision system, which the USAF accepted.

        The modification was to adopt the existing helmet-mounted binocular display system, to a single flat screen LCS monitor, with 3D glasses to retain the depth perception cues.

        This adaptation was developed by Collins, with input from USAF boomers that acted as test subjects, in simulations using a motorized camera mockup. The boomers steered the cameras to insert the boom in the receiver. These results were published, and approved by the USAF.

        Thus going into flight testing, everyone expected to get similar results to the simulations. That was possible in about 85% of test cases, but for others, the images were washed out and/or distorted.

        At first Collins tried software enhancement for the images, but that only gets you so far. That enhancement became RVS 1.5, which the USAF adopted on an interim basis, but would not accept as a permanent solution.

        A further issue was that US boomers were accustomed to tactile feedback to determine if they made accidental contact with the receiver. In the RVS simulation, the computer told them if they made contact. In the real RVS, there was no feedback from the boom controls. So the accidental contacts went undetected in some cases. That’s unacceptable because it could damage the receiver aircraft.

        That is in fact what led to RVS 2.0. Calhoun formed an expert panel to resolve the issues. And they came up with system that used collimated flight simulator displays, to remove the convergence-accommodation dilemma in 3D depth perception, as well as 4K color stereo cameras and LIDAR to detect distance and receiver contact.

        Thus RVS 2.0 is a state of the art system, that is the best available. Also is automation-ready. It wouldn’t have been possible even a few years ago. Certainly not at the time the contract was awarded.

        • Rob, I’m not going to argue with any of that. But, it doesn’t change my main points. You just don’t do what amounts to a science fair project as the cornerstone of an FSED program. We used to be really hard on engineers on this point. “Looks promising” wasn’t even close for getting a go ahead for including your brainchild in a bid proposal on the defense side, unless it was an R&D contract. On the commercial side, you basically have to have matured your toy to the point of it being bulletproof to make it onto the plane.

          In the fellowship selection process for ATF and TF levels, on the commercial side getting something you invented or developed onto the plane was often the make-or break determinate for DE (design engineering) candidates. For ME (manufacturing engineering) candidates, the test was making it into production use on the factory floor.

          None of this should have ever gone forward, and even at this point, promising should not be even close to good enough for deployment to troops in the field, or airmen in the air. You just don’t do that. It’s the sort of thing that gets people killed.

          Imagine papering over the windshield in your car and giving you some video display technology in a similar state of maturity instead. This whole thing is just wrong and profoundly unethical.

          Now having said that, one of the things that has become very clear over the past few decades is that many younger people working in tech heavy industries clearly lack a basic sense of ethical boundaries. We see this in everything from the way social media companies use data collection to push content that increases contact time, and thus drives higher ad revenue, to engineering managers in aerospace who fail to demand adequate failure mode analysis and then additional design work based on the findings.

          This is what I mean with I keep pounding the table about the importance of blunt honesty. When it works and you would bet your kids life on it, fine. When it just isn’t there yet, don’t do it, and be transparent enough to own up to that. Otherwise, someone else’s kid is going to pay the price, and frankly if they do, you should go to jail for having created the situation.

          Flying is a dangerous business. It has to be treated as such.

          • RE Times before Tech Fellow ranking was opened to ” Manufacturing”
            Engineers. Extract from my 1993 memo re a “survey ” sent to Executive Editor of MANAGER magazine.

            The enclosed data is self explanatory. Since the data was given
            to me as a shareholder, it can legally be published in the Seattle Times or Wall Street Journal. Only a portion of my communications with Boeing and the SEC are enclosed, but they are also a matter of public record. . . .
            Mr Cruze told me that around 1975, the Boeing policy was to
            virtually eliminate most all Paycode 4 Engineers from Operations, as
            they were not deemed necessary or effective. The resultant promotion of Technicians to Management positions is still evident in Middle and Upper Management ranks and attitudes. I do not believe that policy was known, published, or available to those affected . . .

            Is it any wonder that Mr. Bill Selby has commented that
            “management does not have the respect or trust” of the employee. ”

            Up until about 1992-93 – Engineers in Operations were 2nd Class, limited to one step below ” Engineering grades ” with a 5 to 10 percent average lower pay scale for equivalent years of service.

            While things have changed since, it does seem to me that “Operations and Manufacturing” Engineers are still considered 2nd class to “Real” (Aero or Structural ) Engineers.

          • A bit more history re “M” code engineers re my previous (10 minutes ago ) reply to explain,,

            In the 80’s
            ” Also – such Engineers in operations were blocked from participating in ‘ technical fellow” programs and pay grades available to ‘ top’ engineers in “Engineering”

            After I raised the first issue ( less pay and blocked pay grades ) at a shareholder meeting, Frank Shrontz was surprised- but took near immediate action to remove the pay limits- within a month or two- and later announced in the Boeing news.

            In the early 90’s- I continued to push the issue- and with the help of a few high level people and the press, got a one on one meeting with the then guru in manufacturing/operations named Dean Cruze.
            He was NOT a happy camper nor was the top HR person involved. He made it very clear that he was NOT about ready to try to ‘ lower the standards’ for entrance into the Technical Fellow ranks to accommodate the grunt Engineers in Operations.
            The meeting lasted about an hour- and ended with an agreement to disagree ….

          • I think the fact that both Boeing and USAF vetted the system, and published the data in peer-reviewed technical journals, speaks to their diligence.

            Anyone can stand outside the system and point the finger at ideas that didn’t work. It takes zero effort, and the analysis offered in hindsight, has no impact other than criticism.

            If the vendor and the customer agree that the system is adequate, but then flaws are revealed in testing, of course they work together to resolve them.

            Calling that a bad process is not rational, by any engineering standard. Problems arise in complex systems. You can always see them in hindsight. They aren’t always obvious in foresight. You do your best to address the risks you foresee. But there are always unforeseeable risks.

            What made this situation contentious, is although both vendor and customer agreed, and both worked together on the solution, the contract terms were that only the vendor paid.

            This is why both vendor and customer agreed they would not use that contract form again. It doesn’t work well for projects that involve substantial development.

          • @Bubba2 That’s interesting and illuminating. I worked for Kerry Cruze for several years, and I know that he did not have that attitude. Walking through the Everett factory with him was a real meet and greet. We couldn’t go more than a few dozen yards without one of the line workers or MEs stopping us to say hello. That said, it doesn’t surprise me. In my own family, most of the people in the previous generations that I got to know growing up had very strong attitudes about the importance of social class, and actively avoided contact with folks they considered to be beneath them. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and then beat them over their heads. We too will get our turn at having our heads beaten upon.

          • @ Rob

            “I think the fact that both Boeing and USAF vetted the system, and published the data in peer-reviewed technical journals, speaks to their diligence.”

            Got a link to those peer-reviewed technical journals?

        • @Rob, I would take that surface layer of mutual agreement with a huge grain of salt. Both sides have an incentive to claim that it was a good process. What I was told by people I trust is that the modification of the aft pressure bulkhead and construction of the conventional boom operator’s station is the single most expensive part of the post production mod of an airframe that is going to be used as a tanker. It was Stonecipher’s team who wanted to whack the cost of construction, and proposed the idea to the Air Force as a cost savings.

          I think there is ample evidence that the problem did not lay with the contracts but with the people negotiating them. During the second world war, contracts were routinely modified on the fly as improvements were discovered. As production efficiency improved, Boeing would cut the cost of the planes and let the contracting people catch up. William Allen was revered, not for his technical acumen, but because he set such a stellar example of how to conduct one’s self. T Wilson made some big mistakes, arguably the Paisley affair being the biggest one, assuming he did not know what was going on with the Western Processing mess in Kent, but the way he handled JAL-123 sent a clear message that it was the William Allen approach that we needed to use as our north star. The evidence is quite strong that this approach was simply lost on August 1, 1997.

          If we had to stand up and defend Taiwan tomorrow, which plane would you want to send into the theater to support our fighter aircraft – an RVS equipped KC-46 or a refurbished KC-135? Assume that among the crews of those planes are some of your own relatives.

          I blame lawyers for lots of things in this life, but this is not one of them.

          • ” William Allen was revered, not for his technical acumen, but because he set such a stellar example of how to conduct one’s self.”

            Amen to that. I heard Bill Allen speak to the troops when we proposed the SST- and later cancelled – and also became aware of his memo to all managers/supervisors when we ‘ lost’ TFX ( F-111 for the teeny bops )
            This after he was called to testify to Congress about the wheeling and dealing involved by the ‘ winner’. He (Boeing) was offered a chance to redo the competition- which he refused.
            So after that the word got around VERY rapidly. Paraphrased somewhat ( re the TFX loss )- essentially said ” Any ( management ) who says we got screwed- will no longer be a manager in this company ”

            His black Thunderbird using employee parking was legendary.

          • The obvious counterpoint to your argument, is that the KC-10, introduced 40 years ago, was the last tanker to have the boomer position in the rear. No customer nor service wants that feature in their tanker.

            Thus neither Airbus nor Boeing has pursued that design, in two decades.

          • After starting out as an accountant and auditor, I made my career doing fairly high tech work in Boeing. So I am not a techno-phobe. That said, one has to be cautious of tech fads and moving away from what works.

            When significant new technologies are first developed, humans have a very strong tendency to apply them to excess. We can see this going back to the late Neolithic when the new fangled invention called pottery was applied to everything, including the first coins. The 1950s was an era of great silliness with small electric motors, especially in the kitchen. Everyone had to have electric knives and can openers. Currently, we see software being used for solutions where hardware is required. There is often a tremendous cost incentive to do this, as there is a perception that software solutions are significantly less expensive than hardware ones. This is false of course, and often leads to loss of schedule control and products that simply don’t work. At Boeing, the MCAS with too few sensors and insufficient functional isolation is a good example of this mistake. And of course, this RVS is another one. If it had worked, come in on schedule, and saved the money it was supposed to, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

            That’s another aspect of the premerger Boeing culture that was critical, but closely related to the importance of humility and blunt honesty. Schedules were sacrosanct. You met your deliverables – period. Status reporting was important to the engineer because it was your chance to ask for help. While you owned your delivery commitments, those commitments were also those of your boss and your whole organization, so if you got into schedule trouble, everyone who could would pitch in to help. It might mean some long nights and lost weekends, but you never failed to deliver – period.

            That’s also how the company made money – not by managing the nominal budgets, but by delivering superior products on time. Schedules equate to burn rates, so managing schedule performance minimizes cost. Cost wasn’t some arbitrary budget number, it was what it took to get the job done. Finance was pretty good at estimating how much the engineers would spend, but there wasn’t so much of a focus on budget reporting as there was on constantly updating the projected total burn, which was called your MEAC (management estimate at completion). I can’t stress this enough – you constrained your costs by ensuring schedule performance, and it worked marvelously well. There’s absolutely no sense of that in these projections for Boeing programs any more.

            If IOC (initial operational capability) for a 767 tanker for the Air Force had been met on the promised date, the RVS approach would have been discarded only a few months into the program. Simple status reporting would have swept it aside.

    • That’s an older article, they have progressed quite a bit since then. In the videos I posted above, from a few weeks ago, they are actively testing the night scenarios at Edwards AFB, and getting excellent results.

      There are sample night vision screens in the video. They are clear and sharp as a tack.

      • Just three more years to go before they’ll be (nominally) available on the KC-46A — what could possibly go wrong? 😉

        • Yes, because of certification and supply chain issues, as you well know, but choose to leave out.

          • Three years is a long time, Rob — whatever the underlying reason.
            And, where BA’s track record is concerned, three years can very quickly become four…or five…
            Ask Tim Clark and Southwest about that 😉

            And that’s not even touching on the implementation screw-ups that BA is capable of.

    • From the link:

      ““Without a plan outlining a path forward towards maturing the critical technologies before the preliminary design review [for RVS 2.0], the program is at risk of facing additional cost increases to mature the new RVS, as well as encountering delays in developing a solution for refueling covert aircraft,” GAO said in that report.

      “The Air Force said this month that it foresees fielding RVS 2.0 for the KC-46A in October 2025–a delay of 19 months (Defense Daily, Oct. 7).”

    • williams:

      The A330MRT has a system that works. The USAF would have been further ahead to mandate Boeing use it after the failure of RVS 1.0.

      Where they would start over is the core specs to KC-X bid as no A330MRT has been built to that and its all unproven or not installed in any version.

      Some would require being common to the KC-46A so you did not have shifts between systems (or be made to act exactly the same returning the same information of affect)

      The boom would be carried over in full from the A330MRT as what counts is the nozzle and those are all to one spec.

      In theory you could require the A330MRT be programed to act like a KC-46A controls wise to maintain commonality but the side stick would remain.

      • It might have been less expensive to adopt the MRTT system. But also less capable. The RVS 2.0 system is considerably advanced. It resulted in a complete redesign of the boom operator station and controls.

        • The RVS 2.0 system also isn’t currently available — except for testing.


          “It resulted in a complete redesign of the boom operator station and controls.”

          Yes, because the initial design was a dog’s dinner.

          • @ Rob

            That’s a very cryptic comment.
            Surely there’s some imaginary “fact” that you can quote so as to try to make a more cogent point?

      • On this back and forth nonsense about the RVS, I should think by now folks would understand how thoroughly indefensible the concept is for a full production program intended to provide a military weapon system component on a contracted date for initial operational capability, or as a product of a company that is supposed to make it some money.

        As my back and forth with Bubba2 highlighted, making your schedule commitments is the lifeblood of this industry. Chasing technical ideas is a great thing to do, but you just don’t do concept development projects within a program that is all about producing something on an assembly line that has to work in the field on the day it is delivered. That is profoundly wrongheaded. It’s ok to do that sort of thing in a contract that is an R&D thing to explore an idea folks think is promising, but not on a production program. On the military side, it’s the kind of thing that gets people on your side killed. On the side of the producing company it’s the kind of thing that will bury them in losses.

        The production part of this business is not about the toys. It’s not a playground for for a bunch of adult sized children fiddling with their pet projects. It’s no place for liars pitching status charts and totally make-believe “things will be great in a couple of years” fantasies. At some point, that sort of behavior just needs to stop. Defending it demonstrates either extreme naiveté or willful participation in the prevarications.

        This is a great example of why Boeing is in such a mess today. It’s bad the behavior of the people far more than the specifics of the poor performing products.

        There is a simple cure, which is to make watermelon charts, a firing offence with any offender being visibly marched off the property just the same way we would treat someone caught stealing from the company.
        This zero tolerance policy needs to start at the top and include anything said by an exec in an earnings call that turns out to be a fantasy.

        Implementation is easy. Setup an internal audit organization that reports to an outside director, maybe a retired senior FBI official. Require all status reports to be immediately submitted to them for audit review. On day one, the team needs to visibly swoop into a couple factories and office buildings, quickly check the source data, and march a few people out. Get the message sent swiftly so everyone understands. The lying needs to stop.

  32. Air Force leans towards buying 75 more KC-46As instead of competing KC-Y


    AIR WARFARE SYMPOSIUM — Goodbye, KC-Y. Adios, KC-Z. The Air Force is officially moving away from its long-held strategy to upgrade its tanker fleet.

    Instead of those long-planned competitions, which were originally laid out as the master plan to recapitalize the Air Force’s aging refueling fleet with a series of new tankers, the service is moving ahead with a truncated tanker buy — now almost certain to be 75 more KC-46s — and a next generation air refueler, which the service plans to compete and field by the mid-2030s.

    The reason for ditching a competitive KC-Y process is directly tied into industry responses, according to acquisition chief Andrew Hunter.

    “We have come to the determination that the kind of KC-X, -Y, -Z strategy that was established in the 2009-2010 timeframe is no longer fit for purpose for meeting the aerial refueling needs of the joint force in the 2030s and beyond,” Hunter said.

    The Air Force previously believed that additional capabilities featured in KC-Y requirements “would not necessarily be a big stretch,” Hunter said. That changed when the service determined that if the KC-Y contract was competed, Boeing could deliver a tanker by 2032 with competitor Lockheed Martin following two years later, a delivery timeline that risked opening a gap between the end of KC-46 deliveries and fielding a follow-on KC-Y.”

    • Did you check the date in your link?
      March 7.
      We’re now almost 3 months further.
      Things change 😏

      • Yes, I know. Per the Defense trade Mags nothing has changed.

        • “Per the Defense Mags nothing has changed.”

          Got a link to back that up?

          The current LNA article suggests otherwise:
          “But so far, the USAF technical group at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton (OH) is proceeding as if there will be a competitive battle. “

          • Funny how Leehan is suddenly the fountain of youth when it is twisted to support your view.

            The reality is Scott is pondering and there is nothing so far that supports any notion that the contract will be stopped and that the KC-46A will not be extended (how much is an open question)

            The reality is there is major plus in continuing with KC-X and KC-Y is either all X or truncated (we are still short of tankers and some KC-135R retired as is the KC-10.

            If you follow the same argument on the new engine for the F-35, it followed the exact same trajectory and the determination was improve the P&W got the best bang for the buck vs an totally unknown and unproven buck.

            The USAF is looking at spending in the area of 200 million on a new 6th generation fighter, if the USAF likes anything its fighters and its going to take a lot of convincing and freed up money to sell that.

            Designed right the 6th Gen fighter will have much better range.

            That once again changes the equation of what is needed.

            Knowing what the whole story tells you how out of date your view point can be. There is a lot of USAF shifting and shuffling all the time, you just have to follow it to get an idea that nothing is static.

          • @ TW

            I note that you haven’t provided any references to support your view or to counter the view of LNA.
            Not very good at supplying (relevant) references, are you?

          • Bryce:

            Links have been provided by myself and others (in this same discussion by others).

            Facts are wasted on you as is any effort, you just deny and divert, so shrug, no, I won’t bother.

            The others know what I am talking about and that is what the discussion is for, those who are interested in the facts.

          • @ TW
            After your recent wing-join fantasy, a lot of commenters here would prefer to see actual links to back up what you’re presenting as “facts”.

            As for Rob: he already owes us 5-6 links just from the current article — though, of course, we won’t be getting any…because they simply don’t exist…

  33. Lion Air?

    Is Lion Air looking to order the Airbus A220?

    ‘A photo of a brochure and passenger safety card featuring a Lion Air-branded Airbus A220 have been shared on social media. ‘


    ‘Its narrow-body fleet largely consists of Boeing 737 aircraft, with the airline group operating 165 737s throughout its subsidiaries. Lion Air Group carriers also operate 90 Airbus A320 family aircraft, including the A320neo.
    Additional types in its fleet include the ATR 72 and the Airbus A330-300 and the A330-900neo.’

    Lion Air laughs in the face of fleet commonality…

    • Yes, I saw that article earlier this week.
      One wonders if an announcement will be made at the Paris air show…?
      Maybe even a launch customer for a new sub-type that’s currently in the rumor vine?

  34. (and on the subject of the A220 and the GTF)

    Pratt & Whitney GTF Engines Power Breeze Airways’ Longest Airbus A220 Flight




    ‘GTF engine technology for the A220 has been foundational to the growth and success of Breeze over the past two years,’ said Neeleman. ‘We’ve been able to link new city pairs while reducing operating costs and environmental impact.’

    Engine problems seem to be for the guys on the other side of the railroad tracks….

    • Indeed.
      Amazing how US carriers have thus far been unaffected by the GTF problems, isn’t it?

      Smells like preferential treatment…

  35. It’s really depends on the operational conditions and the ability of the carrier to perform extended maintenance. Thus some airlines have been able to adjust, while others have struggled.

    The main factor is the ability to weather downtime while waiting for the GTF repair. Some carriers just wet lease replacements, some have large enough fleets to simply reassign aircraft. A few have maintenance depots and can undertake the work themselves.

    • – Bit difficult to do any type of maintenance when there’s an inadequate (or no) supply of necessary parts.
      – Bit difficult to “simply reassign aircraft” when you only have (predominantly) one type in your fleet.
      – Have you checked lately how difficult it is for airlines to “just wet lease replacements”?

      • Those are the solutions quoted by the airlines themselves, in articles where they are asked for statements on the status of their A220 fleets.

        • Over on Anet. There is talk of Delta having issues with their GTFs too. Parts are not an issue yet with them. Then again, Delta is a MRO for PW.

        • @ Rob
          Got a link to those articles?
          Or are they just another figment of your imagination?

  36. RE Retired Tech ‘ Schedules were sacrosanct. You met your deliverables – period.”

    In Operations- Manufacturing- Assemby ( Shop ) the 3 most important issues
    were Schedule-and the other two didn ‘t count. In assembly area, a sacrosanct date on a new plane was ” load date ” when the Jig(s) were loaded for the first time ready to clamp, drill, assemble, join as planned. God could not help you if something you were directly or indirectly responsible for delayed the jig load date set months before.

    • Yep, and the key to everything was relationships and trust. On the defense side this crossed the boundary with the customer. A critical part of every bid was the PMP (program management plan). In it you named all of the key people who would be assigned to the program. These were often negotiated up front at a TIM (technical interchange meeting) in a little sidebar session, often over dinner. The customer wanted to see names of people in charge of things who they knew would meet their IOC delivery requirements.

    • @Bubba2 – If you are open to it, I would like to meet you if you are still in Western Washington. I split my time between Lopez Island and the Clearview neighborhood north of Woodinville. You can find my real contact data on my website, and to figure that out, just search on my real name. I’m the guy Dominic Gates used as a prototypical retired Tech Fellow in the 2016 special insert in the paper for the centennial. Scott knows me too. I’m on Lopez through next Thursday and will return sometime the following week.

      BTW, to give you an idea of how much things changed in terms of Kerry’s attitude compared to that of his dad, it was Kerry that sponsored me for ATF (Senior Principle Scientist before the rank title change after the merger), which basically guaranteed my candidacy. SPS was added specifically for people like me, when I was in AR&T. T used to come over to our presentations all the time, even after he “got sick” and retired. Now all of that said, my not having an advanced degree made me a pretty unusual candidate, but I had more of my stuff in production throughout the company than most folks in the building.

      • Hmm – while I still drive locally, and I am a bit west of Woodinville, I would prefer to simply comm via email and similar. Scott also knows me, so what I will do is send him a direct note to send you my email address.

        I suspect we may have a few mutual friends or at least recognize some names and times.

        I am often surprised at meeting or communicating with friends from the past- going back to the very early 60’s, sometimes halfway around the world.

        And in a few cases by accident of time and place having a few words and a beer or riding with some local and/or national famous people.

  37. Sounds great. It’s always a privilege to meet someone who helped build the place to what it once was.

  38. Interesting day — the C919 has performed its first commercial flight:

    “China’s first domestically-made passenger jet has flown its maiden commercial flight, as the country looks to compete with industry giants such as Boeing and Airbus in the global aircraft market.

    “The C919 plane, built by the Commercial Aviation Corporation of China (Comac), carried about 130 passengers on the flight, according to state-owned newspaper China Daily.

    “The jet took off on Sunday morning from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport and landed less than two hours later in Beijing.

    “The flight was operated by state-owned China Eastern Airlines, and the side of the plane was emblazoned with the words: “The World’s First C919.””



    China’s CJ-1000A engine is already undergoing flight testing.
    Presumably, the rest of the plane design is being sterilized of western parts, just as the Russians did with the MC-21.
    COMAC is aiming at producing 150 C919s per year.

    Interesting times ahead…

    • And the second plane for China Eastern is already in the pipeline:

      “China Eastern expects to take delivery of four more C919s during the year. The second aircraft with factory registration B-001K performed its maiden flight on May 8 and has done two more test flights on May 10 and 18.”


      At a rate of 150 C919s per year (12.5 per month), looks like there won’t be much need for (many) more 737s in China*. A similar fate will ultimately befall the A320, though not for a while (AB is currently delivering several per month to China).

      Now that the “base model” is thoroughly tested and in commercial service, it’s reasonable to assume that the Chinese will come in due course with phased tweaks and upgrades — just as they did with their high-speed trains, which had humble beginnings but are now cutting edge.
      Also, now that the C919 is in commercial service, it probably won’t be long before other Asian countries grant it a type cert — just as happened with the ARJ21 in Indonesia (and, soon, in Malaysia).

      It’s interesting to have a new player on the block — particularly as one of the old players is teetering on the brink.

      *I know that LNA thinks differently on this point, but the political landscape has deteriorated markedly since the LNA analysis was published. Moreover, at the time of that publication, I don’t think anyone was talking about 150 C919s per year.

      • Sadly, unless there are some dramatic changes in the way we go about things in this country, the day will come when United has an all COMAC fleet.

        A good place to start would be to take the right to charter and oversee the governance of corporations away from the States and setup a new branch of government with that responsibility. The whole Delaware problem needs to be solved for many reasons, most of which are more important that Boeing’s problems, but fixing the governance of a mess like Boeing would get solved as a part of doing the whole thing right.

        Part of the amendment to make it happen should explicitly overturn the nonsense of the head note to the 1886 decision Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, and lay out what amounts to a bill of rights for chartered organizations that are curtailed a bit from the nonsense of calling them full persons under the law. That head note, which has been treated as though it was an actual SCOTUS decision, has been the root of a great many evils.

  39. It’s production 150 for the first 5 years, which means at the expense of sales.

    Designed in 16 years for a single model against 2-class 150-185 seats for Airbus A32Xneo family, and 2-class 140-180 seats for Boeing 737MAX family designed in 6 years.

    This remains very symbolic for China and its COMAC program nevertheless. Congratulations to them👍

    • Congrats to Comac (maybe Scott should do a positive article for Comac C919, he would if they were a western aircraft company) Anyway, Comac has production capacity of 4 C919 a month. Key western suppliers for airframe production equipment/tooling Gemcor, Electroimpact, Brotje Automation

      cheers Dave Pritchard

      • A lot of Chinas’ “development” and ‘ manufacturing ‘ expertise and airframe equipment/tooling were developed by ” old Boeing “.

        Just a partial list

        Boeing and Industry ties with China

        Note process development items by ” Old” Boeing.

        Boeing, Xi’an Aircraft Company mark milestone installation of 3,000th Next-Generation 737 vertical fin ( In 2015 )
        By André Orban –
        28 July 2015

        Gemcor- a U.S aerospace Rivet Machine Company ( long ago sold to a LA Conglomerate ) Early squeeze-vibrate process developed by Boeing in combination Gemcor 1960’s

        ElectroImpact – Started in mid 1980s from a Univ. Wash and Boeing research project in 70’s to develop a low voltage version of Boeing Patented Electro Magnetic Riveting process in use by Boeing since late 60’s on 747 as hand-held cable supported and incorporated into an automated spar assembly tool (ASAT) in early 80’s- for 767 along with first significant use of ‘ coldworking’ fatigue improvement process in 767 upper and lower wing panels

        Basically an outgrowth of NASA- Saturn 5 program in 1960’s to repair dings in propellant tanks.

        Main factory next to Boeing Everett plant.
        Electroimpact also makes a Boeing developed aerospace dent remover using a magnetic process.

        Power Feed drilling equipment developed by Bob Quackenbush and used in Oil and aerospace industries around the world.

        Zephyr Limited Access right angle Power feed drill ZT802X developed as a result of B2707 project and titanium drilling and also used on titanium wing box of F-14

        Fatigue resistant fastening via split sleeve ‘ Coldworking ‘ process developed in mid 1960’s by Boeing and main product line of Fatigue Technology in Southcenter (Tukwilla WA ).

        Industry ties are VERY complex

        • Actually Boeing, China and Gemcor goes back to 1985 when Boeing subcontracted the 747 flap for production in China (when China was buying 747s) and Xian needed a stand alone riveting machine
          ps Gemcor sold to Ascent Aerospace in 2016 located in Michigan (parent of Ascent in Calf. )
          Gemcor is selling their building in Buffalo, NY
          Tom Speller Sr started Gemcor in 1937 in Buffalo, NY sad to see it move out of town (most likely Michigan with Ascent Aerospace)

          • I met Tom in the late 1960’s in Buffalo during a design review of a proposed SST riveter. A real gentleman.

          • SST Riveter? was it going to use the slug process (e.g. slug process for the 747 wings..(fuel tight) What about the fuselage riveting? what type fasteners for SST? two piece? did you use Boelube or Freon for the holes what material? So you visited at the Hertel Avenue operation for Gemcor

          • Dave- re your ” SST Riveter? was it going to use the slug process (e.g. slug process for the 747 wings….”

            Re SST The winning version by Boeing was a swing wing- later abandoned. So a lot of work was done re Taperloks in a massive titanium wingbox mostly constructed by EB welding ( which was Grumman was using on F-14. and later on B-1 )But for most of the ‘ feathers’ and body assembly, the use of 6al-4v titanium rivets and sheets were planned.
            And in general we had found that in the transition area between wing box and inboard wing ( under aero surface, slug rivets and 3/8 headed rivets were planned. Whereas from memory- a 3/8 aluminum alloy slug could be squeezed with around 20 k pounds or using squeeze vibrate- the same titanium alloy slug would require over 30 K force and NOT be amenable to squeeze vibrate process. And similar forces for flush rivets- all or -most needing to be fuel tight.

            Thus we went to gemcor to spec out and have a design review for a ‘ stronger ‘riveter. Hot riveting via electrical heating was considered and tested by yours truly – and dropped. And Due to expected temperatures and other reasons A-286 rivets were a major candidate. SR-71 data was not really available. Whereas most aerospace fastners Huck and Hilok used cad plating for corrosion resistance in aluminum structure- cad and ti together is and WAS a major no no especially at temperature . So much that standard snap on tools or sears tools were verboten- and Boeing was in the process of replacing or replating mechanics tools with nickel plate!
            Sorry if this is a bit long but a simple answer IMHO not appropriate.

            Add to that The Gemcors for 747 inner wing to wing box areas simply did not reach due to throat or access, and huck and hi lok were used until some fasteners were replaced with Electromagnetic riveter driven slugs in the early 70’s and a few areas in renton partly due to significant improvements in fatigue life.

          • There will be no need for any of that sort of capacity in the U.S. if we don’t have a commercial airplane producer. We could start fresh by building up one of the small airframe companies, or build a new one from scratch. Obviously I would prefer to see Boeing recapitalized and led by some folks who have an interest in doing what the “Boeing of the Totem” used to do as a matter of routine.

  40. So, here we go, with another messy procurement.

    The most important thing is that the USAF ends up with a fully functional IFR fleet.

    On the face of it, given that the remote vision system still isn’t working, the KC46 seems not to be a “finished” option. I think a fair question is, can the remote vision system ever work? It’s been quite a while now, you’d have thought that if the tech existed they would have been able to try it now. The fact that it isn’t is, well, concerning.

    Arguably, until there some definitive resolution of the remote vision system on existing KC46, this is not a great time to run a procurement program from the point of view of the officers who have to run it.

    On the one hand, they’re going to come under a lot of pressure to pick the KC46, but that ultimately might turn out to be a very bad idea if the remote vision system never gets fixed. Picking it risks being a career-ending move (for ignoring the obvious defect), not picking it could also be a career-ending move.

    On the other hand, cutting their loses on KC46 now and heading towards A330MRTT would make the first procurement a colossal waste of money (which is no way to win friends no matter what the history is), but that is probably the best thing to do from a purely technical requirement point of view (apparently it works and is trouble free, and presumably can do everything the USAF needs).

    Unless there is some other clear, overriding requirement that disbars one of the options (speed, range, capacity, etc), there is personal peril in either choice. The danger then is that the politics around the decision do not support a clean choice, and the risk of ending up with a non-functional or sub-optimal fleet is actually quite high.

    If I was a serving officer charged with running this procurement, I’d resign at the first hint of external pressure hitting my inbox.

    *Other Factors*

    There is an option to consider the matter from the point of view of fighting a major war. Suppose the tanker fleet took heavy loses, or needed boosting in numbers in a hurry. 767 is a legacy and fading design. A330 + neo is a current design and is likely to persist for decades to come. If I needed donor aircraft to convert in large numbers in a hurry, the A330 is probably going to be the better bet.

    I’ve no idea how one would actually write that as a defensible requirement, but it’s this kind of thing that could be far more important than anything else.

    • Matthew:

      You ignore the fact that Boeing and the USAF have tested a fix and the USAF is ecstatic about it. It not like we are breaking the speed of light barrier, its a vision system, there are solutions so that is a non issue.

      The 767 will be in service for 40 years so that is a non starter as a basis of any show stopper. Fedex and UPS have bought a lot of them, USAF is buying them.

      If you loose a bunch of tankers its going to take 5 years to replace them, its not like you pull and mod them. People have thrown booms on various stuff so any 767 would do fine (as would an A330) it just would not be a combat tanker.

      Pressure is part of a persons job administering contracts. I loved the pressure. If you can’t stand the heat you should not be a contract officer, it goes with the job.

      There are no A330NEO tankers. There are lots of 767s and some A330CEO you can grab, but an A330NEO, nope.

      In the meantime Boeing is cranking out 2 x KC-46A a month and can keep doing so for years and years

  41. From the new (paywall) tanker article that appeared on LNA this morning:

    “May 29, 2023, © Leeham News: Procurement of a new round of US Air Force aerial refueling tankers resulted in a shift in strategy driven by new threat assessments, a service spokesperson tells LNA.

    ““The Next Generation Air-Refueling System (NGAS) is being accelerated due to threats. Therefore, the Air Force is no longer pursuing the original envisioned tanker strategy,” an Air Force spokesperson said in an email on May 22.”


    • To use a rather amusing quote from a certain CEO of Qatar Airways, which goes well with the situation,
      I would say with humor this one :

      “Lockheed Martin is not going to sit there on the side waiting with his arms crossed”…

      Let’s come back down to earth…

  42. Its also well worth noting that at the time of the KC-10 procurement, there was a desire for a bigger tanker than KC-135R, but the KC-135 fleet was still viable and the engine changes had not even begun.

    In short, it was not an crisis need but a normal procurement fill. The 767 had not flown yet.

    The area the USAF wanted to fill was large offloads (B-52 and Cargo) as well as a range that would allow tanking at very long distances sans support bases.

    The current situation is more driven by lack of tankers with the KC-10 being retired quickly. The KC-135R are holding up and doing well with some modernization but a number are always in maint and the USAF wants to retire some of those.

    A competition will take several years and then with a A330MRT win, take years more to get a production line set up and the first of US type spec into service. That leaves a gap.

    If the A330MRT range was deemed a factor large enough to win a bid, then it would make far more sense to do a direct buy. US content could be handled as a lot of A330 parts are US and spec the GE engines as its the CEO airframe not the NEO.

    79 tankers is another small sub fleet and that would be an annoyance as they would be overseas based (the KC-10 tended to US basing as the need for bases was satisfied in Europe which was wrapped up in the Israeli conflicts)

    So yea, the Boeing contract will be extended and the USAF will play with the KC-Z for who knows how long and very likely KC-46A will need to be extended again.

    • It should be noted that various Allies operate the A330MRT including in the region, Australia, Singapore and South Korea.

      France could well weigh in due to their interests in the region.

      And the tankers can refuel other tankers so with enough you can still get a significant package escorted to the edge of contested airspace.

    • Singapore picked the A350F, CP from what I can find no.

      CP is not the most solid order entity due to its position and issues in Hong Kong.
      It does have an all Boeing cargo fleet and while I would not consider it a blue chip order, its at least possible as the passenger end has the issues.

      I am trying to figure out what the A220 and A350 have to do with the tanker program?

      • “I am trying to figure out what the A220 and A350 have to do with the tanker program?”

        About as much as the F35 does — see your post(s) further up 😉

        • All good reporting has a correction area, I figured you would want to know you were wrong once again.

          The only way to improve is to admit mistakes and correct what caused them.

    • Again while off topic it is an interesting one as it covers all 777 from day one and none of the Horizontal Stabs have fallen off yet.

      Obviously its a note for a AD that has been out and a reminder to keep an eye on it as it could be an issue.

      • I expect @bubba2 to have something to say about this as well. Getting a near perfect tape laydown in your composite build-up process, and making sure that your curing process doesn’t induce any separation and achieves bonding throughout the structure is critical. Between designing the tape laying path algorithms and having really good layup and autoclave operators, the whole thing is a bit of an art.

        The University of Calgary came up with what looked like it might be a significant breakthrough in this process a few years back. Then all went quiet. I was never quite sure it if was something that didn’t pan out, or was so good that it got classified. Even when there is a negative report on something floating around, one can never be quite sure that it isn’t a cover story meant to misdirect. I’ve seen one such misdirection that has been amazingly effective for many decades.

        • Will probably regret this, since its been about 30 years from being involved in fastening issues. A quick look at the AD data
          FAA-2022-1312-0002_attachment_1.pdf and pages 100 and on- it seems that most of the issue involves checking /replace/repair of many outer chord and splice angle and similar ” metal ” fittings with approx 80 to 100 Shear style bolts 1/4 to 3/8 diameter and about 2 inches or less in length per side. I note the sealing requirements and some obvious first oversize hols.

          Accessibillity probably linited in some areas. Based on the above, and in MY OPINION [[ based on related limited experience going back to about 1970 for ‘ bolt ‘ hole repairs on Lufthansa 707 wing box structure, ( turned down an AOG trip to Frankfurt but trained 2 shop crew ) and later on other areas on different models ]]- I suspect/think the probable ‘ repair ‘ will be to remove fastener/ sleeve coldwork the hole/ream to first oversize/ and install the proper oversise or interference fit fastener.

          Normally an air/hydraulic/or electric puller and nosepiece would be used, but a hand ( wrench ) held limited access nosepiece can also be used.

          For example – look up Fatigue Technology Electric Little Brute puller
          and the Hand Puller Unit ( HP-10 ) used to expand/coldwork a fastener hole.

          For those wo dig around about the History and founding of Fatigue Tech, you will find the name of my deskmate in the 1960’s lou Champoux. And the basic design – first use of a early model handpuller
          was the result of a conversation between lou and myself when I ran into a VERY limited access requirement.

          And for the wags who will pontificate about my ‘ coldwork” ( expand ) the hole and then reamit sequence- the reason is that the expansion results in a out of round hole, and reaming to next size does NOT significantly reduce the effects of prestressing the hole to prevent further ‘ cracks”

          And the process has been used for decades on railroad tracks where welding is not practical or needed. ( check the railtec puller )

  43. My conclusion is there must be a massive lobby and political campaign going on to convince key decision makers the KC46 is capable enough & forget Boeings program track record.

    Deep down regardless of real world (pacific, transport) operational needs / USAF requirements.

    Boeing needs this order badly. Despite its behavior, Boeing is a US strategic asset & too big to fail. The rest is in my opinion mainly window dressing. https://simplywall.st/stocks/us/capital-goods/nyse-ba/boeing/news/some-investors-may-be-worried-about-boeings-nyseba-returns-o

    • Good article- thanks for the link.

      “No strengths identified..”

    • Of course there will be. When has there not been. Same is true for any EU or NATO project and the rest of the world.

      But the decision makers also gave Airbus Round 2 (and got slapped by the GAO for violating the RFP). So tell me that was political pressure?

      The USAF will probably make a sane decision as they have bigger fish to fry.

      • A bigger fish to fry??
        How about get its house in order first like tankers actually work as intended?

        • “..work as intended”? .. that’s scheduled for Block 47, in FY 20thirty-never.

          Meanwhile the USAF/MIC (same thing, really) are now soliciting proposals for an all-new! new! Fighter aircraft (no, I’m not joking). I won’t mention the B-for-boondoggle-21, for now.

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