Boeing selects KC-767 for Tanker

Boeing, as expected, announced that it will offer the KC-767 to the US Air Force for the KC-X aerial refueling tanker competition.

The press release is below the jump.

There are a couple of very specific references in the press release challenging the KC-767 vs. the Northrop KC-30, which is based on the Airbus A330-200.

What we find particularly interesting is the announcement that the KC767 will have a 787-based cockpit, and a new fly-by-wire boom that as best we can tell is V 6.0 derived from the ill-fated KC-767AT. Illustrations on Boeing’s tanker web site have consistently shown a KC767 with winglets, but the press release says nothing about this (the updated tanker website continues to show a KC767W). It’s unclear what, if any, wing structural changes or whether a new wing might be involved, another feature from the KC767AT.

Boeing continues to cite the 24% fuel burn advantage it claims of the KC767 over the KC-30, which does not take into account additional savings afforded by winglets, which amount to about 4% on the commercial 767-300ER.

We also note Boeing’s specific reference to a flight control system that gives the aircrew “unrestricted access to the full flight envelop for threat avoidance at any time” as opposed to the computer-driven fly-by-wire system of the A330.

It has been assumed Boeing would offer a KC767 based on the Italian KC767, which is several years late and still undelivered. Market sources continue to assert Boeing has problems with the wing-mounted pods (Boeing previously said this has been fixed) as well as the fuselage center-line hose-and-drogue (Boeing previously declined comment). Boeing calls its offering the low-risk solution. Northrop continues to point to Boeing’s non-delivery of the Italian tankers as evidence of high-risk. EADS’ KC-330 MRTT is 18 months late to launch customer Australia.

We are hearing more and more than Northrop is more likely to protest the Final Request for Proposal than to no-bid the project. A announcement is expected by next week.

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Northrop may decide on KC-X this week or next

Northrop Grumman may decide this week or next what it will do about the bid for the USAF KC-X Final Request for Proposal, Leeham.net understands.

Northrop has said frequently and clearly that it may not bid because it believes the FRFP is skewed toward Boeing’s KC-767, and we are satisfied this is no idle threat. But we also believe that while the odds, as things stand today, are that Northrop won’t bid, don’t consider this a sure thing.

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KC-X FRFP due Feb. 23; does a report hint on outcome?

The Final Request for Proposals for the USAF’s KC-X aerial tanker is due to be issued Feb. 23. The controversial and hotly contested procurement between Boeing and Northrop Grumman is supposed to be decided as a result of information provided in the FRFP, but does another document issued this month by DOD hint at the outcome?

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Murtha death bad news for Northrop tanker bid

The death today of US Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, means US Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Boeing/WA) will likely succeed him, and this is bad news for Northrop Grumman and its bid for the KC-X USAF aerial tanker.

Murtha supported a plan to split the buy between Northrop’s KC-30, based on the Airbus A330-200, and Boeing’s KC-767 despite opposition from the Department of Defense for a dual procurement. Murtha believed a split buy was the only solution that would win Congressional funding to replace the 50-year old Boeing KC-135s.

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Tanker, 787, 747

Last week was quite active in aerospace and so were we, unable to post. So here’s a recap of some of the things that occurred and our thoughts.

More politics and the Tanker

For the past two years we have bemoaned the politicizing of the procurement process for the KC-X tanker, extending our criticism mostly on previous Boeing efforts with its Congressional supporters–most notably Sen. Patty Murray (D-Boeing/WA) and Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Boeing/WA) and Todd Tiahrt (R-Boeing/KS). Now comes Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Northrop/AL) who, in a display that represents all the worst of what’s wrong with Congress, placed a hold on 70 Obama Administration appointments in a fit over his displeasure of the KC-X Request for Proposals and his belief it disadvantages the Northrop Grumman KC-30.

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Tanker Contract: Follow the law

Update, Feb. 1:

The newspaper The Hill, which covers Capitol Hill, reports the USAF plans to award a contract for the KC-X this summer, sticking (more or less) to the timetable originally projected. Secretary Robert Gates also plans to urge President Obama to veto any FY2011 defense bill that contains funding for the Boeing C-17, which Gates cuts from the proposed budget.

We believe cutting funding for the C-17 is a mistake. We also believe the Administration ought to take Stimulus funds, double the KC-X procurement from 12-18 tankers a year (resulting in retiring the ancient KC-135s a lot faster) and split the contract between Boeing for the KC-767 and Northrop Grumman for the KC-30. In addition to the only political solution that will work, there are solid strategic reasons for the procurement to be split.

Taking Stimulus money to establish a new aerospace industrial base in Mobile (AL) while supporting the existing 767 program is far more productive than giving Stimulus money to things like a California dinner train.

Original Post:

Here’s a commentary from an outfit we’d never heard of before, the Forerunner Foundation. This op-ed piece appeared in the January 11 issue of Aviation Week magazine. The writer, Jerry Cox, makes an interesting point over the campaign by Boeing supporters to exclude the Northrop Grumman (Airbus) bid for the KC-X tanker.

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France “protectionist,” says Boeing

We wonder what took Boeing so long to make this obvious point: France is protectionist in its defense purchases and should quit complaining about the KC-X competition in the US. See this Reuters story.

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Outlook for Airbus, Boeing in 2010

Introduction

2009 has faded into history and 2010 is here. Last year wasn’t kind to Airbus or Boeing—though it was worse for the latter than the former. How will this year be?

We’ll get right into how we see things lining up for the two largest airframe OEMs for this year.

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USAF used criteria GAO rejected in new DRFP: KC-30 backers

Update, December 8:

Bill Barksdale, Boeing KC-7A7 spokesman, emailed us with a response to this column. We have posted his note in the Comments section below.

Original Post:

The USAF used criteria in the current Draft RFP for the KC-X competition that had been rejected by the Government Accountability Office’s review of the Boeing protest last year, an analysis by prepared by EADS North America and Northrop Grumman asserts.

This unfairly tilts the current DRFP toward the Boeing KC-767 and is the basis Northrop why said it will not submit a bid unless major changes are made with the Final RFP.

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USAF RFP supports smaller airplane: Boeing

Bloomberg quotes the CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems as saying the USAF Draft RFP for the KC-X competition favors the smaller 767.

Bloomberg writes:

Boeing Says Tanker Request Favors a 767-Based Plane (Update1)
2009-12-03 16:13:59.557 GMT

By Gopal Ratnam
Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) — Boeing Co. defense chief Dennis Muilenburg said the U.S. Air Force’s requirements for a new aerial refueling tanker favor a 767-based airplane.

“It’s important for us to allow the customer to finalize the requirement, but if you look at the current request for proposals it would push us toward a 767-based plane,” Muilenburg said today at a conference sponsored by Credit Suisse Group AG in New York.
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