Tanker debrief

Over the past several days, the Air Force tanker announcement has generated more commenting here than any subject since I started blogging. A lot of well thought-out and spirited comments.

One of the reasons I enjoy my job is that I do have the opportunity to share a dialogue with you - a knowledgeable community that is passionate about aviation.

As we noted Friday, it’s been a disappointing time. And as you might imagine, Boeing would like to further understand the selection and the decision. Along those lines, Boeing has issued a statement today requesting an immediate debriefing on the competition. You can read it below.

In the meantime, thank you for all of your comments - and keep them coming.

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Boeing Requests Immediate KC-X Tanker Briefing

ST. LOUIS, March 4, 2008 – The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] today made public a request for an immediate debriefing from U.S. Air Force officials on the KC-X tanker competition.

As of today, the company has yet to receive a briefing on why it was not selected for the KC-X program, a decision the Air Force announced February 29. The Air Force has indicated that the briefing would occur on or after March 12, a delay the company says is inconsistent with well-established procurement practices.

“A delay of this length in the formal debriefing is unusual,” said Mark McGraw, vice president - 767 tanker programs. “Consistent with past practice and recent experience, we would expect this briefing to occur within days, not weeks, of the selection announcement. Given that we are already seeing press reports containing detailed competitive information, we feel that our request is more than fair and reasonable.”

Boeing viewed the tanker competition as a priority and an opportunity to give the Air Force the best tanker to meet its requirements. The company based its proposal on the stated criteria in the Air Force’s Request For Proposal (RFP), the formal document that defined the requirements for the air tanker system.

“We bid aggressively with specific focus on providing operational tanker capability at low risk and the lowest total life cycle cost,” said McGraw. “For instance, based on values disclosed in the Air Force press conference and press release, the Boeing bid, comprising development and all production airplane costs, would appear to be less than the competitor. In addition, because of the lower fuel burn of the 767, we can only assume our offering was more cost effective from a life cycle standpoint.

“Initial reports have also indicated that we were judged the higher risk offering. Boeing is a single, integrated company with its assets, people and technology under its own management control – with 75 years of unmatched experience building tankers. Northrop and EADS are two companies that will be working together for the first time on a tanker, on an airplane they’ve never built before, under multiple management structures, across cultural, language and geographic divides. We do not understand how Boeing could be determined the higher risk offering.

“Initial reports also indicate there may well have been factors beyond those stated in the RFP, or weighted differently than we understood they would be, used to make the decision. It’s important for us to understand how the Air Force reached their conclusion. The questions we are asking, as well as others being raised about this decision, can best be answered with a timely debrief indicating how our proposal was graded against the stated requirements of the RFP,” said McGraw.

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UPDATE: March 7, 2008

Uncertainty Remains About Process After Air Force Tanker Debrief

UPDATE: March 10, 2008

Decision Time Nears for Boeing to Protest Air Force Tanker Award

Comments (48)

Amy (Seattle, WA):

Given the economy and Boeing's experience building tankers, I'm just sick about this decision.

Write your Representative.

Write your Senator.

I think I'll even write the President!

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

Finally - LEADERSHIP.

I'm satisfied with the questions being raised in "Boeing Requests Immediate KC-X Tanker Briefing - March 4, 2008."

The impression being created in the media is that Boeing was suppling a sub-standard platform for the USAF - when it could have offered the 777 - for some vainglorious reason of keeping the 767 line going.

It is no secret that a tanker based on the 777 would be unmatched in every measure - the Boeing people in Seattle and St. Louis know this.

The USAF should come forward and make a debriefing in a timely and mature fashion - if Boeing - or any other defense contractor is to have a fair chance at the KC-Y bidding - if that is the intention, of course.

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

There is nothing that can be done to reverse the order for the KC-45 nor should their be - what's done is done so long as it is made in Mobile, Alabama I have no qualms about the Airbus product, But as I have written in the earlier posts I support both products so long as the Boeing product product is ordered in the larger number so I support Boeing in an effort to continue to petition the USAF to order the KC-767.

The Air Force has over 500 tankers in its fleet and the order for the KC-45 stands at 179 aircraft that means that over 300 KC-767's can be ordered and since their is no plans to reduce the the number of aerial refuelable aircraft in the United States military inventory the demand to replace every single tanker in the fleet stands and of course the need to replace every single electronics aircraft stands because they to like the tankers are aging and the 767 is without a doubt the best replacement.

Jobs are the most important aspect of the growth of the United States economy so in principle having Airbus bring the A330 line to the United States while they focus on their A350 can only be be a good idea in terms of job growth in the United States economy, this is also why I support bringing the assembly of the 767/KC-767 to Wichita or Dallas while Boeing concentrates on the 787 and the high production rate needed for the massive orders and to insure that customers get the 787 earlier than they would get the A350 in the buyer ordered both products on the same date.

Let it be known that I have always been pro Boeing and nothing has changed and I have been the cheerleader for Boeing's current and future products like the 767, 777, and 787 and future products. As strongly as I believe in the Boeing product I strongly believe in job creation where needed to boost the sagging economy.

As I have written before I stand with the KC-767 most of all but the ordering of the KC-45 by the USAF is not the end of the world nor should it be the end of a military utilized 767.

Ed (Dublin Ireland):

Perhaps someone could be kind enough to tell me why this award should be reversed and given to Boeing when the KC-767 lost 4 of the 5 criteria, and drew on the 5th.

There were something like 30 thousand pages of information between the criteria set out by the USAF, and the two competing bids. How much clearer can It be?

That said, I'm looking forward to hearing the debrief to confirm the results in detail.

michael:

I cannot believe I still hear Americans saying why not an Airbus? Well for one - subsidy disputes, security issues, American jobs, all Northrup was is just a salesman for Airbus nothing more - it will still be an Airbus.

T C (Mt. Vernon, WA):

The prospect of a future fleet of 600 tankers and the fuel required to fill them seems unrealistic.

I heard the more, more, justification for the A330 platform. Wouldn't a large plane be overkill in some instances. Would having two sizes of tankers make any sense? An additional smaller 737 or A320 platform, anyone?


Russ Marshall (Auburn):

This AM on KOMO Radio they quoted a female, whose name I forget, expert aviation analyst as saying the Boeing missed on almost every critical factor in their bid to get the KC-X Tanker contract with the Air Force.

Is it true that the Boeing bid for this $ 35 billion missed on almost every critical factor?

If so, why did Boeing miss so badly?

Dan McCaughan (Everett,WA USA) (Everett, WA, USA):

Having been an employee at Boeing for over 15 years, I know what this company is capable of delivering. In the past, Boeing has taken large scale risks and managed to overcome huge obstacles.

You don't become a leader in aerospace by not taking risks. In my opinion, Airbus is the best thing thats ever happened to Boeing. There was a time when we were complacent and competition from Airbus helped make us better. I wanted my company to win the 767 tanker program on merit, not because it was politically correct.

We should fight to take it back if we lost it for any other reason than that it was an inferior product to theirs. [Airbus]

Ed (Ireland):

quoting michael:
''I cannot believe I still hear Americans saying why not an Airbus? Well for one - subsidy disputes, security issues, American jobs, all Northrup was is just a salesman for Airbus nothing more - it will still be an Airbus.''

Boeing submitted their KC-X proposal against NG/EADS and they knew exactly what they were up against. Nowhere in the rules did it state that employment had anything to do with the eventual awarding of the contract. The KC-30 is about 60% US made content. I think the KC-767 is about three quarters US content (Randy can you confirm this please?). Neither is an 'all american' airplane, and unless Boeings employee ratios are extremly ineffecient (which I do not believe they are), the NG/EADS operation down in Alabama will easily match Boeings employment numbers, considering that all A330 freighters will be built there (68 orders and counting). In fact I believe that Airbus will shift all A330 assembly to the states one day, when the A350 is in production.

Unless there was illegal goings on, there is not a case to protest this.

Now Boeing can get down to designing a 777 tanker for the next round!

Chris Williams (Evendale, Ohio):

The Engines for the tanker are also made in France, not in Cincinnati, Ohio...The French get almost all the work. No one has yet to bring this up yet..The engines are a 5 billion dollar part of the project.. This is fact!

Bring the work Home to Ohio GE! If Boing would have gone With the cf6 engine from Ge they would have won hands down......

Gordon J. Wallace (Renton, WA):

The decision to equip our military with a foreign based aircraft is strategically unthinkable. Northrup-Grumman is simply an attempt to make the whole idea of an Airbus aircraft palatable, and obviously it hasn't.

Boeing's bid was based on a "Medium" sized airframe. Had the Air Force made it known that they wanted the largest airframe for the dollar than I am positive the company would have offered the 777.

If we are able to stop the flow of spare parts and airframes to keep Iran from flying the F-14, what is going to prevent the governments of the countries that manufacture the A-330 from cutting off the flow of parts to the U.S. Air Force just because they disagree with the position or actions of our Government?

The statement that jobs and the economy were not considered as part of the complete package is absurd. In just about every ad I have seen in magazines, newspapers, etc. the fact that several thousand jobs would be created or preserved was a well known fact.

The Leadership of the US military has truly broken new ground here. When the Navy wants a new carrier, will they have it built in China? Destroyers and Cruisers built in Taiwan and Japan? Will they purchase the cheapest strategic Bomber or Fighter from an overseas manufacturer?

Where will this "send the work" overseas end?

Aurora:

In response to:
"Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):
There is nothing that can be done to reverse the order for the KC-45 nor should their be -"

I suggest you Google "appropriations process, United States Government" and find out how the military's hardware gets funded. Something CAN be done: don't fund the KC-30. Senator Sam Brownback, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has already come out against this choice. More and more outraged members of Congress are weighing in against this misguided and short-sighted decision. "Strategic considerations" comprise more that just "what's bigger".

It is vital that the United States retain the capability to design and build air refueling tankers, which are a critical link in the power projection process. Outsourcing the airframe to Europe is not in our best interests. We must look to our own industrial base--just as the Europeans did with the A400 and shopping the Airbus factories to Euro companies.

In my opinion, the Air Force was "beguiled by big-ness" here. Dumb, dumb decision, really.

Ivan Charvat:

Value is defined as: "How much you get" divided by "How much you pay"

At $178 million per tanker, EADS is providing the US Air Force with almost 25% more tanker than the KC 767, which Boeing priced at "less than this".

It all depends on how much less. If it was only 5%, 10% or 15% less per plane, one can see where EADS's better value comes from. The comment in the press about the Air Force getting several times more usable planes from EADS by 2013 compared to from Boeing, is also puzzling. Why would Boeing allow that to happen?

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

For Michael:

Quote;

I cannot believe I still hear Americans saying why
not an Airbus? ...

Having the United States government maintain a closed bunker mentality foreign policy with Europe and the rest of the world is a greater threat to our national security than listening to our allies and having the world look up to America again with openness and not fear, or having foreign designed planes made in America where jobs can be made.

Aurora:

I want Boeing to continue to petition the Air Force for the KC-767 and have them made in Wichita or Dallas to make way for the 787 but to stop the KC-45 now is to deny jobs in Mobile, Alabama, Sen. Sam Brownback is opposed but Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama is supportive, both of the same party. The A400 is nothing compared to the C-17 in fact the A400 is a spin off of the Antonov An-70 or vice-versa, when it comes time to replace the C-130 an updated version of the YC-15 with CFM56 engines should take over, 2,000 ft takeoff, landing can't beat that.

apollo (china):

I think Boeing should blamed decision on themself, why they did not build the tankers on their Boeing 777-200?

Larry Witherspoon (Long Beach, California):

“Initial reports also indicate there may well have been factors beyond those stated in the Request For Proposal, or weighted differently than we understood they would be, used to make the decision."

If that turns out to be the case, it will make me wrong twice; first for my belief that Boeing would win because it had the product with the best fit for the Air Force criteria, and second for my belief that Air Force Procurement would not be so unwise as to base an award on criteria outside of the stated envelope.

But who knows what kind of pressures the procurement officers were under?

When Northrop jumped in and whined about how the Air Force RFP was slanted towards the Boeing product, the Air Force supposedly took a look at that and made some adjustments which didn't change much.

Maybe those adjustments were not so insignificant after all and Boeing, already committed to the 767, was blind to the potential.

And why should I be surprised?

I think Boeing offered the better TANKER, but it looks like maybe the ground rules changed when the Air Force started thinking about getting a big TANKER/TRANSPORT COMBO that could be a kind of two-fer-one deal that might save on the cost of some extra C-17's !

I have actually had it happen to me in a real estate deal I was shepherding, where the United States Postal Service was looking for a location in the City of Long Beach for a new terminal, and they chose a property close to the one I was pushing which was OUTSIDE the criteria provided in the RFP, probably because the price was more favorable.

Without huge legal resources to mount a protest it was unlikely that I could get the decision reversed so live and learn. Boeing however has huge legal resources and if anything was not above board I expect there will be work available for some lawyers.

Jun Leido (Manila, Philippines):

The Debriefing Statement was appropriately worded.

Indeed, the USAF may have said " we probably won't need a bigger aircraft, so yours will do... ' only to go around and say " we got this because it was more... "

Everything is relative. If they wanted more basing, more commonality, more operational tankers - then they'd have to get a rightly-sized aircraft. But if they wanted a bigger, longer-ranged, heavier carrying airplane - then it gives away all the advantages above. The KC-777 would have been a great tanker offering - but I'm sure it would have meant that the AF would have capitalized on more hangar space, wider ramp area, more takeoff separation... WHICH we all thought they didn't want to do???

Friends, I'm not the expert here. But maybe if the AF will give their rationale, we'll understand better. So - Customers are always right.

Except that in the Military business, the Customer ( the AF) is always right, but will never pay. The taxpayers do.

LIGHTWEIGHT (France):

777 sized tanker isn't necessary: (metric ton used)

A 767-300F/ tanker can take off at 767-400 MTOW (204 tons) on lightly shorter runways with the same cargo volume and the same 112 tons of fuel than the KC45.

Only about six tons heavier than a KC767B (198t) I spoke yesterday, but 30 tons less to do the job (235 tons for KC45).
And cheaper and lighter again, and no factory to built!!!...

Richard (Coventry, UK):

Purely as a non-American observer, why are so many people upset?

If the NG/EADS proposal is so bad for the USAF why was there a competition? Why not just hand the whole deal over to Boeing in the first place?

in response to Chris Williams' comment:- "The Engines for the tanker are also made in France", I say Yes, under license from GE and maintained in the US by GE.

In response to Aurora's comment:- "It is vital that the United States retain the capability to design and build air refuelling tankers, which are a critical link in the power projection process.", I say what do you think NG do for a living?

So the KC-30's airframe will be constructed in pieces in European factories. SO WHAT? It will be assembled and "stuffed" full of US technology by US people in the US. I will also be maintained by US people in the US too. If Airbus do open a production line for their A330F in the US, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see that the airframe will also end up being made in the US by US people.

My final comments on the matter is this. If Congress blocks this deal then they should also stop all outsourcing of 787 parts too. And, just to be completely fair, STOP SELLING US MADE AIRCRAFT PARTS TO EADS.

Phil:

Gordon,

"The decision to equip our military with a foreign based aircraft is strategically unthinkable."

It may be unthinkable now, it won't be in 15 years when China will start flooding the market with commercial airplanes and form joint ventures with Russia.

If foreign based = EU, it is not much of stretch to think that future defense programs could be modeled after NATO charter. Multinationals (such as Boeing) and a global economy cannot accommodate national protectionism. A joint venture between Airbus and Boeing may not be far-fetched 10 years from now.

Martyn (Everett, WA):

If the USAF were to select the 787 for a tanker one day, would we complain then knowing that the wings are made in Japan, some fuselage sections made in Italy, TE flaps made in Australia, etc, etc? We have to accept the fact that Boeing is now more than ever a global company, as is Airbus. This is what Boeing executives have decided is best for Boeing's long term growth.

There are measures in place to protect sensitive trade secret data, and ITAR restrictions placed on certain products made in the US to protect the US industry and defense systems. These factors allow US manufactured products to be sold to other countries. This also enhances Boeing's position to supply such products to the extent that the majority of it's revenues come from exports. Boeing I believe is the largest US exporter per dollar of manufactured products.

So American people have no grounds for complaint in this tanker decision. It is supposed to be a level playing field based upon "may the best man win", rather than a decision based upon politics. The US economy has done very well for decades because it has supplied products to the world. Airbus Industrie, and EADS, have just the same rights to be in the market-place, do they not? Would it be fair to throw out their product because they were not American (which by the look of the numbers suggests that about 60% is made in the US anyway)??

Mike (California, USA):

Once again, the USAF botched up a tanker deal. For a military procurement program this HUGE, a jobs creation requirement should have been part of the RFP. Don't forget, this is a military project funded by American taxpayers and not a commercial order. It's also the 2nd largest (money-wise) military procurement program in American history. We're not talking about small orders here.

I have no problem with Airbus getting the contract if the USAF truly thought it was the better value. But the USAF should have insisted (and may still do) that the airframe be built under license here in the USA. This would require that instead of the major airframe components being built in Europe, they'd instead be built in the USA. This is nothing new as the Dutch, Japanese, Koreans, Malaysians, etc. have all done this with American aircraft. It's simply a smart way to do business.

In any event, Boeing needs to keep its head high. Anyone who knows anything about aircraft knows that Boeing builds a better product than Airbus.

Reece Lumsden (Everett, WA):

I tend to agree that we now need look toward other opportunities to increase our top line. A decision has been made and it's time to move on.

Michael (Long Beach, CA):

I think I read somewhere that the EADS proposal was deemed less risky. How is that possible? Boeing already has operational 767 tankers, right?

Rich (Everett, WA, USA):

Didn't we offer the US Air Force a 777-based tanker, and the Air Force told us they weren't interested in a tanker that large, and wanted a 'medium' tanker? It seems to me that the Air Force changed the rules in the middle of the game.

I'm not particularly worried about the tanker itself. We're a large, prosperous, and diverse company, and while keeping the 767 line open would be nice, it's not particularly necessary. What concerns me most of all is that Airbus is going to 'assemble' their tanker in Alabama.

How long is it going to take before Airbus decides that they should start assembling commercial airliners at that facility?

How long before non-Union jobs start going to Alabama, and the wages of aerospace are driven down across the board? What if Boeing is locked into a contract with SPEEA or the Mechanics Union and can't get out of it, and Airbus is paying their workers half what their jobs are worth?

I just moved here from Detroit to get a job with Boeing, where I couldn't find a job in the once-thriving automotive sector, and believe me, it can happen again to American aerospace. Nobody originally took the VW Beetle as a serious threat either.

Stephen (Tulalip WA):

We were surprised by the decision, but we should not have been. When John McCain flew into Seattle to campaign he arrived on an Airbus.

Boeing has never met a "free trade" agreement they didn't like. They loved NAFTA and WTO and wasted no time outsourcing

American jobs and production to Mexico and all over the world. They explain it by using those terms, "globalism", "free trade", "best value" etc.

So it's a global market. Now when they get a taste of their own medicine they find it rather bitter as did their employees time and again.

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

More Leadership:

Albaugh said Boeing has never protested an award in his 33 years with the company.

``We will only protest in the event we think there is an irregularity in the proposal phase,'' he said. ``Any company that protests and makes protest a part of their capture strategy is doing a real disservice to the country and the military.''

Albaugh said if the RFP called for a bigger aircraft, Boeing would have offered its 777 airliner.

But he said "we were discouraged (by the Air Force) from doing so."

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And:

"This was never about the biggest airplane and it was never about who could haul the most cargo and it wasn't about... who could haul the most gas," Albaugh said. "What this thing was about was deploying fuel to the fight and being able to get to austere forward base runways."

"If they had wanted a big airplane, obviously we could offer the 777," Albaugh added, "and we were discouraged from offering the 777."

Eric (Fort Worth, TX):

The Northrop’s KC-30 offers 20 percent more capacity for 33 percent more cost. Dollar for dollar you can get more fuel in the air with Boeing’s KC-767 offer.

Most KC-135 ground crews say they rarely fly with full capacity of fuel and to be flying a larger airframe around for the same mission results in a higher lifecycle cost. Only 2 percent of missions are freight or passenger missions, so the cargo capabilities should be insignificant. I’m starting to believe the Military is like a kid in a candy shop.

I believe the Boeing product had the lower lifecycle cost, which should have been in the RFP, but the Air Force wanted something larger; again not in the RFP. What I’m starting to believe is the real determining factor is that the KC-30 promised 3 times the initial delivery rate, again not in the RFP.

C. At Boeing (Kent, WA , USA):

This Contract was Boeing's to lose. As a Boeing Engineer, I hope this is finally the straw that wakes Boeing up. Boeing has many factors that have lead to this loss; none are related to our quality or products. It was Boeing's choice to base it on the 767-200F and not consider the 767-300, that would have added 19 feet to the plane.

As far as risk, I have to agree with the Air Force. There are more factors to risk than the fact we are already selling and delivering KC-767 tankers to other nations. Northrop is the lower risk choice.

I don't believe there is a single employee that is unaware of the problems that have become systemic over the last eight to ten years.

Boeing lost it, and it was Boeing fault!

As an employee, it hurts
As a tax payer I'm still pissed.

Nelson (Everett, WA USA):

C. At Boeing (Kent, WA , USA) said:

"As far as risk, I have to agree with the Air Force. There are more factors to risk than the fact we are already selling and delivering KC-767 tankers to other nations. Northrop is the lower risk choice."

I would like to know what other factors you refer to that would make NG the lower risk... the challenges we are facing on the 787 are the kinds of things NG/Airbus will face and I personally think their situation will be compounded by the nature of a military derivative of a commercial product.

We've learned a lot about working globally on the 787, and it's been an expensive education. As a taxpayer I don't want to pay NG/Airbus to learn the same lessons. By the time they're done the price will be astronomical per airplane.

Y (Los Angeles, CA):

If the AF wanted a bigger tanker, they could
also reopen the KC-10 line--it has a wider fuselage than the A330, and also comes with a three engine reliability.

Dan (Everett, Wa.):

The Airbus could have had problems dropping engines on the tarmac on landing and been one-third made in North Korea and the Airforce would have chosen it-for the simple metric of it not being a Boeing product, and therefore it being free of 'scandal'.

The contract-award was payback for getting caught.

Gordon (London (UK)):

Why is the NG significantly lower risk...? Read on...

The KC-45 is flying (not in tanker fit) the KC-767-200/300/400 Frankentanker is not – in any form. Nor is it even in build.

The Aussie KC-30B is flying. In tanker configuration. It will be in service next year, using boom and HDUs. The likelihood is that the AMI and JASDF KC-767s won’t be operational before the KC-30B is.

An Airbus modern tanker is in full operational service. The KC-767 is not.

The lack of a boom on the A310 MRTT is irrelevant. It’s a matter of customer choice. Since their prime requirement is to refuel tactical aircraft, they don’t need one. And though dual role aircraft, they are in service as tankers. I know of one mission this month that saw a Luftwaffe 310 refuelling seven Tornados, for example.

No KC-767 has yet flown an operational sortie.

The Airbus ARBS boom has ‘passed gas’ in trials. It’s the same boom that the KC-30B and KC-45 will use. That’s all that the KC-767 boom has done – and the AMI/JASDF boom is not the same as that proposed for the Frankentanker.

The MRTT core mission systems (flight, mission and fuel planning, military mission avionics package. etc.) are common to all MRTTs. I’m not talking booms/pods/boom controls, I’m talking about the mission computer subsystem for planning and in-flight management of refueling missions (towline and trail missions), the digital air-to-air and beacon TACAN, and the milspec digital V/UHF and DF communications/navigation systems. They are operational and in service. The KC-767’s are not.

When I say wing HDU, I mean wing-mounted HDUs, naturally. If I meant fuselage HDU, I’d say so. Only Boeing refer to wing HDUs as WARPs.

The KC-30 uses Cobham FRL905E-series (Mk 32B-905) refueling pods, the German A310s use the Mk32B-907 pod. Both are 900 series pods, there is little difference when it comes to clearance/certification.

The A310 MRTT was routinely passing fuel to receivers before the AMI spec KC-767 had even streamed its hoses (a milestone it achieved in April 2007). I can find no reference to real, ‘wet’ contacts from the KC-767’s wing HDUs at all. In a Nov. 29, 2007 release, Boeing said that it would transfer fuel to a receiver aircraft using the Italian KC-767 WARP and centerline Hose Drum Unit (HDU) refueling systems “In the months ahead”. If it has happened, it happened VERY recently.

As to the JASDF CHDU, I thought that it was the AMI aircraft that had that, not the JASDF aircraft?

And we know that the RAAF KC-30B has streamed its hoses – rather more than the USAF spec KC-767 has done – and has, or is about to start wet contacts. This is no big deal, since we’re talking 900 series pods on an Airbus – when 900 series pods are already in frontline use on another Airbus.

The KC-767 wing pods have proved extremely problematic, and the ‘fix’ (which imposes a significant drag penalty) still hasn’t been fully cleared. When Boeing flight tested the pylon they’d designed to attach the HDU (sorry, the wing air refueling pod) to the wing they encountered buffeting caused by airflow separation on the wing pylons at very low airspeed. This effectively established the limit of maximum airspeed, so that Boeing had to re-shape the pylons. Embarrassingly, the only fix that worked was blunting the pylons – making them much draggier.

The KC-30 has also undertaken proximity trials as a receiver, making it closer to being able to receive than the KC-X spec KC-767 is.

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

I didn't realize that the MRTT core mission systems are, in fact, common to all other MRTTs. So what exactly is Northrop Grumman doing in Mobile - paying some 2000 people aerospace wages to write Northrop Grumman on the planes?

Surely not?

The KC-45 must have a lot of US-spec only systems - because it appears that Northrop Grumman has not worked on the other MRTTs.

I stand to be corrected.

Jose Perez (NY):

Well, I'm not that informed a reader as Gordon from UK.
But when you say that no 767 tanker is flying today, what model exactly are you talking about?

Cause as far as I understand, Boeing already delivered one to Japan and another is following sometimes this month. Gordon seems to have some points on both aircrafts, but I don't think he got all the points covered here.

Also, one thing that most people write about here is the size of the A330 vs the B767 and the advantage for the A330. But if size was the case, I never read that the Air Force wanted anything bigger than the 767.

Moreover, the plane that would be replace is even smaller than the 767 and that's what the Air Force asked for. If they really wanted something bigger, wouldn't Boeing offer something bigger? Maybe I'm wrong, but there seems to be a lot of experts here. Good thing I am not.

Alberto Maya R. (Medellín (Colombia)):

What I see is that EADS (parent company of Airbus) will be unable to fulfill the contract ($40bn) because the rate of exchange $/euro (today at $1.5320 per euro).

We have to remember that Airbus is in a weak financial position and its restructuring plan (Power 8) was made assuming a rate of exchange of $1.35 per euro, which is far from the reality. So, EADS has there a broken pocket.

Thus, EADS has 3 possibilities: 1) to lose lots of money delivering the tankers; or 2) to resign now to the contract or 3) to pay a huge fine, equivalent to its bankruptcy.


Tim (Irvine, CA):

I join the chorus of all those who have expressed disappointment with this outcome. Based on the comments in this blog and the little we have learned about the selection process, the Air Force seemed to have placed a greater weight on larger size than was apparent in the RFP. I regard this as a failure for both Boeing and the Air Force - Boeing in not perceiving the Air Force's preference for a larger plane and the Air Force in not being as clear or accurate in defining their requirements as they maybe should have been.

Not to be whining, I suppose in the procurement process that the burden is on the bidder so ultimately, this is Boeing's failure. Even so, it's noteworthy to consider the recent breakdowns in the Air Force purchasing process where Boeing has been involved.

In last year's Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter competition, Boeing was awarded the contract for its Chinook HH-47 offering only to have it taken away (at least temporarily) when the losers (Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky UTC) protested that the Chinook was too big for the Air Force requirements. Of course, the botched lease deal of five years ago was also a failure due to ethical lapses on both sides as well as the unorthodox approach of a sole source lease.

I agree with Jim Albaugh that issuing a protest when the competition doesn’t go your way is not a good business strategy. If Boeing lost fair and square, they should swallow their pride, learn what they can and move on.

If on the other hand, there should be any evidence of impropriety, of course they should fight like hell for a fair shake. For whatever the contract award debrief reveals, let’s not forget the tremendous responsibility that the Air Force purchaser’s have to run a clean and fair competition so that the war fighters get the best equipment as expeditiously as possible at the best value to the American tax payers.

kmathews (Corona, Ca. USA):

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-our-military-aerospace-jobs

Put an end to nafta style job losses. we need our jobs to stay here in America. we have lost 63,000 jobs

Let's put a stop to congress sending our jobs away

Rufus3698 (Mission Viejo, California):

Recently, I was part of some proposal activity with the USAF as customer at another company. I was frankly shocked how the customer and their advisors could twist and redefine obscurely written requirements to bend the proposal to their wants. It was all too easy to, in effect, get around these requirements to move the procurement in any direction they would care to turn it, all the while protesting that they "....weren't there to redesign the system" .

Normally, one doesn't expect this to lead to corrupt decisions since the customer's uniform goal is the purchase of the best possible equipment at the best price. But in the Boeing tanker deal, the customer has reason to punish Boeing, and send a message to the rest of the defense contractor community.

In my opinion, this is exactly what happened in the tanker deal. It would be quite easy to selectively "misdirect" the Boeing proposal or unaccountably "redefine" some requirements.

I've worked at other companies, some of which were eventually absorbed by Boeing, where some kind of management misdeeds were discovered and in addition to the immediate punishment associated with the particular crime, no contracts were awarded to that division for the next 5 years. It was not necessary to explicitly state that, it just happened that every contract pursued by that company was in some way found to be deficient.

Does anyone really seriously think that Boeing IDS didn't actively and passionately pursue this contract? Does anyone really seriously think that if the requirements dictated a "larger aircraft" that Boeing wouldn't have responded? I think the people who write that stuff have no notion of the defense industry procurement process.

If the next tanker buy is 3 or more years away, Boeing may again have a shot on a 787 based tanker. If they can keep their nose clean till then.

Michael (Canada):

I am astounded that the US government would give such a contract to France, ignoring the WTO dispute, European subsidies, American jobs, helping a competitor to compete against US strategic businesses etc.

I saw this posted on another blog:

Which is the better aircraft?

Boeing 767 V Airbus A330 facts:

767 Orders:1011
767 Deliveries: 961
Program Start:1978
First Delivery:1982
Development Time:4 Years

A330 Orders:880
A330 Deliveries:515
Program Start:1987
First Delivery:1993
Development Time:6 Years

Facts on true chronological age:

An Airbus A330 is basically an A300 fuselage with
newer wings and engines cobbled together with the
infamous fly by wire computer control system from the A320.

Lets talk aging bits on the A330 and B767:

A330:
Fuselage: Circa 1972 (A300)
FBW/Base Computer System/Avionics: Circa 1981 (A320)

KC767:
Fuselage: Circa 1978
Avionics Suite/Computer Sytems: Circa 1997 (767-400ER)

With the proposed engines and updated avionics on
the KC767 the Boeing offering actually comes out as the much younger bird here on average - or by volume if you like.

Design Service Objectives (DSO)
Airframe Lifetimes per manufacturer guidelines

Airbus A330:
40,000 cycles - can be extended to 55,000 with
"C" and "D" check maintenance changes.

Boeing 767:
50,000 cycles - extended to 100,000 cycles as proven in-service with moderate "C" and "D" check maintenance changes.

Design philosophy differences:

Airbus:
Efficiently build airframe with minimal special tooling and special labor skills. Think cookie cutter. The result is a heavier airframe with a shorter design lifespan. Cheaper to buy. More expensive to maintain.

Boeing:
Craft each airframe with a large amount of skilled work and special tooling. Think custom fitted. The result is a lighter AND more durable airframe with a longer design lifespan. More expensive to buy, cheaper to maintain.

Ed (Dublin Ireland):

Guys lets set the record straight on a few things here:

1. Forget about a 787 tanker being a reality within the next ten years. Boeing will only put up the 767 because all of their other tanker candidates (ie 777 and 787) are selling very well in the commercial market.

2. Simply offering a 777 tanker is not easy. The air force desire a tanker that can take off in about 7,000 feet fully loaded at sea level. The 777-200LR needs about 11,000 feet to do this. Its unlikely that the 777 could possible be suitable for the KC-45 competition. It could however be ideal for the KC-10 replacement.

3. So in essence, Boeing are left with the 767. They could of course offer the -400ER if they want to up the stakes in terms of capability.

4. The competition was overseen by an independent observer. After the previous fiasco the USAF have really done their homework on this one. Nobody has put forth a logical reason why the KC-30 is not the best aircraft.

5. How easy will Congress find it to cancel a legitimate competition and hand it over to the 'home team' while there is currently a massive inbalance in military trade between the USA and the EU. Add to this the fact that Boeing are currently defending themselves against Airbuses WTO accusations that Boeing receives uncompetitive handouts from the US armed forces.

John K (Eugene, Oregon):

I think the Air Force has many questions to answer for in the tanker fiasco and maybe they can give a few honest answers.

In the meantime, I take pleasure in thinking that this tanker deal might bankrupt our beloved Airbus. The prices were set when the dollar was stronger against the Euro. The bankruptcy idea is that the payments to Airbus will be in weaker dollars that have gone down in value against the Euro. At the same time Airbus will be paying for the tankers with Euros that now have an inflated value. Their costs have all gone up. Let them enjoy the pleasure of this victory that might end their company.

Thinking about this makes the morning coffee taste less bitter.

Glen (Baltimore MD):

As a 14-year Boeing proposal retiree and a book boss on the Northrop Grumman / EADS Tanker proposal team, I believe that a "best value" award is not confined to strictly scoring the stated evaluation criteria. There are other key factors, like, say, "integrity".

MB (L.A., USA):

Military contracts are bid/build to spec. It is unbelievable that the Air Force discouraged Boeing from bidding the 777...and then choose the Airbus because it is larger than the 767. Boeing could have easily bid two version....one based on the 777 and one based on the 767.

Is suspect Boeing will win the protest on the grounds the Air Force discouraged the 777.

Boeing needs this contract to keep the 777 line alive. The A350XWB is going to eat the 777 lunch...Boeing needs to start immediately building its replacement.

This deal stinks and it will be horrible for Boeing in the long run.

MB (L.A., USA):

"Add to this the fact that Boeing are currently defending themselves against Airbuses WTO accusations that Boeing receives uncompetitive handouts from the US armed forces."

Ed, this award should then prove that Boeing, to a major extent, does NOT. This should be taken into consideration in the WTO dispute...and should be used to penalize Airbus.

....which, of course, won't happen.

chris c (USA):

How foolish could the USAF be?. It is one thing to help nations that share the risk with the US in our global war on terror, it is absurd to give away jobs to a country like France that gets subsidies from their governments to compete with Boeing. Its time for the dumb Air Force top brass to wake up!

ATS (LB, California):

Several points and see if you agree:

I'm deeply insulted that EU want to start negotiating the trade dispute from any point other than zero. I'm not a professional negotiator but even I see it as a total farce. Do they really think we're that clueless?

Boeing tankers will do the job just fine. Any possible icing on the cake that EADS promises is not worth the price, far from it.

EU doesn't want our products like the C17, they'd rather design and build their own A400M. I heard Pratt and Whitney won and then lost a renegotiated contract to Rolls Royce by the EU. Shouldn't we take the same stance?

I read today that Air Force is asking for more money? Why? So it can be spent overseas? They should be disbanded and remade. AF got themselves into a big mess. If they awarded Boeing in the first place we wouldn't have to go thru this. Now the best Boeing can hope for is a split contract because AF cannot backpeddle to re-award Boeing in its entirety.

Since we need programs to attract future US engineers, this is a perfect one to direct the nation's technical expertise and it's blown to heck.

AF didn't think strategically or didn't care to prop up a viable US company that is every bit capable of supplying a vital product.

Billy Bob (Mobile, Al):

I am not sure how the USAF awards their military contracts, but I work for the Navy and our shipbuilding contracts are required to have the manufacturing facility in the US of A. The workers are supposed to have US citizenship, because Navy shipbuilding contracts are tax payer's dollars that are meant to help the local economy where the military ship are being built. With that said how is building an airplane in France and flying it to Mobile, Al to militaries it suppose to help the US economy when 70 or more percent of the work is being done in Europe.

So the Europeans get 30 billion dollars or more in an economic boost? They say EADS and Northrop are suppose to build 4 in Europe and assemble the rest in Mobile, Al. Currently they have 100 or so acres in Mobile that is a nice flat grass field. There is currently no facility in Mobile, but a 100 acre grass field.

I am not sure 100 acres is big enough to put two assemble lines of air planes there. There is no capital equipment or experience labor force in place in Mobile currently to start assemblying, if they started building planes today in Mobile they would have to wait 1 to 2 years before the facility would even be built.

How is this a low risk MR USAF? Northrop does not even exist in Mobile currently, they are only located in Pascagoula, MS build ships for the Navy. I beleive Boeing has a full facilty that constructs the airplane from conception to end product all in the US of A. That means more American jobs. These people in Mobile do not know the facts, most are all happy we got the plane contract but don't realize we only got the crumbs.

The French who did not support us in the Iraq war will be getting the lion share of the 40 billion dollars. Please someone lay the facts out for Boeing and Northrop as to the actual break down of work done over seas and what is being done in the US of A by both companies. The news here in Mobile says the plane was first going to be militaries here, than they say it is going to be assemble here, now they say it is going to be built here.

Now I hear that only 4 will be built in Europe and the rest will be assemble here in Mobile, Al. What are the true facts. Some one please put the facts together from Boeing and sent it to WKRG TV NEWS 5 and please run a commerical ad nationwide on public TV stating only the facts and let the American people be the Judge. I live in Mobile and the people here only see the 1500 jobs they are getting here, they do not realize that it is a lost of maybe 20,000 or more jobs to AIRBUS of France. Wake up Mobile!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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