Tanker decision

This evening Boeing announced it has decided to file a formal protest of the Air Force aerial refueling tankers contract award.

Boeing chairman, president, and chief executive officer Jim McNerney said today, the team has taken a very close look at the decision “and found serious flaws in the process that we believe warrant appeal. This is an extraordinary step rarely taken by our company, and one we take very seriously.”

You can read the news release linked below:

Boeing to File Protest of U.S. Air Force Tanker Contract Award

Comments (18)


Good move. There aren't any style points awarded here, nor is there a prize for second place. I doubt that you would take this move lightly or without serious doubts about the award process. I am intensely curious as to what factors went into this "best value" decision.

Well done!

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

Well, there you go. With several decades of experience with the USAF tankers - from two legacy companies - The Boeing Company should have greater expertise in this field than any other industry player.

It will be a sad day if the USAF was found to have conducted itself with anything less than integrity in its dealings with this matter.


Mark this day as the end of Boeing's spectacular recover & the day Airbus starts really fighting back. If Boeing can't win the tanker contract by unfair means ( witness staff in jail + CEO resignation ), fair means ( open contract ) & now has to resort to legal means instead of relying on innovation 787 style Boeing just hands the tag of innovator back to Airbus ( no matter how true it is ) & with it the momentum/profile that was so hard to build after a rough start to the 21st century.

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

I am for the Boeing effort to get the Air Force to buy the KC-767 and to continue the effort to push the KC-767 for reasons that the 767 model is already in production and is is in service with the JSDAF and the Italian Air Force, but I do not believe that the orders for the KC-45's should be stopped because the manufacturing of the aircraft will create jobs in Mobile, Alabama, and so long as Northrop / Grumman and EADS keeps its word that 60% of the aircraft is made in the USA I am for it.

Though I am pro Boeing as I have always been, I believe that the Air Force can have a combined tanker fleet, but as I have written before, the KC-767 SHOULD be ordered IF the Air Force choses to order the KC-45 so I support a Boeing petition to get the Air Force to order the KC-767.

Over 500 tankers need to be replaced, so far 179 KC-45 have been ordered this leves space for over 300 KC-767's to be ordered.


Good on Boeing Let's hope for a different outcome!

Sal (Long Island, New York):

I support Boeing's decision to file the GAO complaint.
As we learned more about the Air Force's process, it became apparent that the Service changed the rules of the game in the seventh inning with the Home team leading 3-0.


I don't see what Boeing stands to win here. A $40bill contract that won't put much of a crimp in their stock price vs another 5 years of disfavor from the Air Force?

IMO, this was the last punishment by the AF for Le Affaire Druyun. It's very rare for awards to get overturned, and it stands to bias other AF contracts against the Boeing entry.

This protest could also have implications if McCain is elected. He will more than likely have some retribution in mind for prolonging this issue further into the election cycle.

Richard (Coventry UK):

I am surprised that Boeing has decided to make a challenge.

The USAF's debrief must either have unearthed and confirmed something fundamentally wrong in the procurement process OR Boeing is simply clutching at straws in the vain hope the politicians will do what Boeing clearly failed to do.

Many commentators have said that the loss of the tanker deal stems from Boeing's inept and arrogant management. I hope that Boeing are right in their decision to lodge this appeal because if it is not upheld, Boeing will lose a considerable amount of face and the managers directly associated with the tanker will have to go.

Good luck - you'll need it!

John K (Eugene, Oregon):

I will be interested to see the answers given by the Air Force about any possible changes they made during their decision process to award the tanker contract. So far they have not given answers to Boeing's questions.

It seemed Boeing and Airbus offered two completely different planes for the same bid. In past government bids, the government will establish an exact set of specifications such as the size of the tanker, the fuel carrying capacity of the tanker and other detailed specifications.

An early press report mentioned the Airbus tanker carried 45 more tons of fuel, was larger and carried more passengers. This gives the impression that Air Force might have changed their specifications in the middle of the bidding process. I would like the hear Air Force give full details about their decision.

Richard (Mobile, AL):

Boeing needs a slice of cheese to go with their whine. It is amazing what a little competition will do to such an arrogant company. They are seriously damaging future contracts with the military. I am confident Northrop Grumman will prevail and that the KC-45A will be built in our fine city and throughout the USA. The Boeing monopoly shall cease to exist.

Steven (Long Island, NY):

The RFP called for a tanker, and although having "some" passenger and freight capabilities can't hurt, opting for a larger platform was not a wise choice. If memory serves me, there are already cargo choices in the Air Force fleet...C-17...CJ-130 and C-5's along with commercial aircraft to ferry passengers if needed that have committed to the military when necessary.

Under the circumstances, why didn't the Air Force just put out a RPF for a plane capable of carrying 500 passengers, have the capacity of a 747 freighter, carry as much fuel as a KC-10, and also be a fighter, bomber, attack and AWACS all in one platform, and be supersonic to boot.

Then we would need only about 10 of them.

Chris C (South Africa):

It certainly is a major disappointment that the US Air Force did not opt for the correct option in the very beginning: the efficient and advanced Boeing KC-767AT. The KC-767AT is the most suitable and optimised replacement for the KC-135, and further, would have been a truly American product.

No matter how this whole debacle is spun, the KC-30 is a foreign airplane, and the KC-767 an American airplane, period. I will not disagree that the KC-30 is a very capable airplane and offers compelling advantages, but through it being the larger airplane by design, does not mean that it is the better option!

It was all about the most optimised, efficient, advanced and highest reward/lowest risk tanker to replace the KC-135, and therefore, it was all about the KC-767AT! Whatever the final outcome of this Tanker debacle is however, the war-fighter will have a significantly better airplane than the KC-135...be it the KC-30 or the KC-767.

Len Preskow (Toronto, Ontario, Canada):

Airbus may have won the battle, or at least Round One. But over the long term, my humble opinion is that they will lose the war...to UAVs.

Autonomous aircraft technology is developing in leaps and bounds.

The USAF may only need the initial 179 tankers because UAVs may render the tanker mission obsolete in the near to medium future.

How are those Phantom Works UAV fighters and bombers coming along, Boeing?

Dan (France):

Given how political this RFP is I find it hard to believe the USAF would be negligent in their decision process, so I would love to know what the 'serious flaws' you have found are.

It seems more likely to me that you are using the appeal process to buy time, in the hope that the protectionist firestorm will force a change of decision.

Reece Lumsden (Everett, WA):

I think this will be a prime case of perception versus reality. Almost no matter what the outcome now, the perception is that Boeing will protest when things don't go its way.

It's been mentioned in numerous other posts that we have plenty to keep us occupied (getting 787 back on track), that the contract was only for a fraction of the entire tanker fleet replacement and that in terms of the economy, there'll still be US jobs to be gained from the Northrop/EADS win.

Obviously there are a number of nested, related issues relating to this tanker deal and it won't be summed up here (nor do I have knowledge of all of the issues anyway). I think we're seeing a good book in the making here, a draft title may be: 'Refueling the Air Force: Lifting the lid on the tanker deal'. Other suggestions welcome.

Phil (Wokingham UK):

It's reasonable to assume NG/EADS could have lodged a more justified appeal if the contract had gone in favour of Boeing, however in the light of the USAF's explanations to date as to why the A330/KC45a was their preferred choice, it's my considered opinion that the decision to challenge the result could potentially do Boeing more harm than good in terms of procurement relationships.

Having lost it's understandable that Boeing should feel aggrieved, however with an in depth awareness of how defence hardware procurement (Not Airframes) is undertaken on both sides of the pond within the MoD & US Army I consider this appeal smacks more of emotion & the winning over & influencing hearts & minds using the patriot ticket.

It would appear the USAF team have made a well considered choice, paramount here is they get what they consider to be the best equipement to fulfill the role without further enforced delays eminating from a US quality defence supplier.

Melvin in DC (Washington, DC):

I trust your company enough to fly its commercial aircraft frequently.

But I am afraid you don't do so well for the government, and there is a pattern. The swollen Army Future Combat System, the subpar, and relatively simple, COTS integration in SBInet, the black satellite issues, and the 2004 edition of the tanker replacement program.

You can't overcome the drag of past performance and image. I love your TV image ads, but we already know why you are here. And you've done well and helped the Nation, but that earns no entitlement to this contract.

In the end, the protest is only going to make you seem like a sore, angry loser.

Jeff (North AL, USA):

Boeing has ample reason to be appealing. The modifications to Boeing's cost data and changes to the mission evaluation software to keep the KC-30 in the game seem serious. Good luck.

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