Archive for October, 2009

Time to Move On

Boeing's emphasis since Day One of the renewed KC-X competition has been on clarity -- in the process as well as in Boeing's approach to the bid process.  That brings us to this question of pricing data from the last campaign.  Perhaps we can put this distracting side issue to rest and get on with the process of arriving at the final requirements and evaluation criteria that will enable the Air Force to flawlessly choose the right tanker at the best value.

It's been said that our competitor has been disadvantaged due to the release of their pricing data from the last competition.  The fact is, during that previous acquisition effort the U.S. Government followed the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and released limited price information from the successful offerer. More specifically, the FAR mandates that the price of the awarded contract be made publicly available upon request.  This is how the system works to protect the American taxpayer and keep the award of billions of defense dollars honest.

Simply put, when you win a contract you expect details to become public along with details of the decision that are shared with the team that was not awarded the contract. And there's no requirement for the government to share the losing bidder's proprietary pricing information with the winner or the public.  Indeed, when Boeing won the competition to build the new U.S. Air Force combat search-and-rescue helicopter the post-award process followed this same regulatory requirement.

What you may be unaware of is that on August 20, 2008, to ensure that every effort was made to "level the playing field" in a new competition, the government released consistent KC-X pricing information to both sides.  In other words, the Department of Defense has already handed over a comparative amount of Boeing's pricing data from the previous KC-X competition.

The Air Force has said repeatedly that this old data is no longer relevant for either side in the renewed competition.  Meanwhile, others continue to contend that their ability to win is dependent on this rather than on simply offering the best proposal that meets the Air Force's new requirements.  We are confident that at the end of this process next summer the contract award will be based on that rather than on any special treatment given to one competitor over another.

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In Your Words

One of the best parts of having a website like UnitedStatesTanker.com is receiving emails from the men and women who have served our nation in the U.S. Air Force. They have some incredible stories related to Boeing tankers that I’d like to share with you. And there’s not a better time to do that than this week from one of the best shows in the world – the 2009 Airlift/Tanker Association convention and symposium in Nashville, Tenn.

I have my own great memories related to the KC-135. My assignment at Loring Air Force Base in Northern Maine was to a KC-135R unit known as the 407th Air Refueling Squadron. While my job was to serve as a non-flying executive officer, the aircrews made a point to take me flying with them as much as possible so I could learn “the business.” It was then I realized how close-knit folks can get in a flying squadron and how hard they work. Our toughness was tested when our base went through a horrific crash and terrible tragedy. Yet we all came together and still got the Strategic Air Command mission done. To this day, I’m so thankful to have been a small part of that unit and proud to have served with the 407th.

Hope you enjoy these great stories…we’ve posted them unedited and only removed the last names for privacy reasons.

“My love of aviation goes back to my childhood. I don't know if it's because of an early airplane ride from an uncle or having grown up in Boeing country. Somewhere in Junior High I decided I wanted to be a crew chief on a KC-135 Stratotanker. After completion of Basic training at Lackland AFB I was sent to school to learn how to work on USAF aircraft. I was surprised and extremely happy when I discovered that I was to be a crew chief on KC-135's. Stationed at Ellsworth AFB in SD I got to enjoy 4 yrs working on both KC and EC 135's. The story I remember best is when a B-1 went down on our south hammerhead. All 4 crew members ejected, but one was hurt pretty bad. Latter on that day we got the word to prep one of our birds for immediate Medivac for the injured B-1 crew member. We were able to prep a KC-135 and launch it several hours before the next medical plane could even arrive. This is but one story of a wonderful aircraft. Just a side note, the two planes I worked on were KC-135R 62-3540 and KC135A 61-0289. Both were built before I was even born.”

-Eric O

“I was the crew chief on KC-135A tail number 59-1498 from 1972-1974. I flew that tanker to Southeast Asia in support of the Vietnam War, out of U-Tapao RTNAB during LINEBACKER I & II ... we had a F-4 come up to get fuel over Da Nang in a thunderstorm ... get fuel or punch out ... we passed fuel in some of the nastiest air I've flown through ... a great boom operator and a great aircraft got that Phantom home that night ... I sat SAC Alert countless times at Pease AFB, Westover AFB and Goose Bay Labrador, I flew it in support of the Yom Kippur War in Oct 1973 out of Lajes for 2 weeks .. that aircraft never let me down and was always pride of the fleet at Pease. Later in my (2002) career (now an officer and Medical Commander at Pope AFB NC) ... a fellow commander found my old bird at Mt Home and had my retirement flag flown onboard a Red Flag mission and I got a great letter from the crew ... a short time later, the aircraft transferred to ANG and another fellow Commander had the old crew chief tool box saved and sent to me as a retirement gift. I retired from in 2003 ... I rejoined the USAFR in 2004, while I did not get a chance to see the aircraft again ... I recently "re-retired" from the USAFR and my First Sgt found me a photo of 1498 and presented it to me at my Change of Command ceremony 3 weeks ago. That tanker has been a part of America's Air Defense backbone for 50 years ... she still flies in Bangor Maine ... still serving and even out-lasted my 36 years of service. No one can match Boeing for building a Tanker ... period... end of story. Find an airlifter better than the C-17 around the world ... can't be done ... and you never find a better tanker than one with "BOEING" stamped on the data plate.”

-Charles T.

“As a former E-3A AWACS flight crewmember (flight engineer), some of our long (and I mean LONG) missions suddenly turned into a fuel-critical situation. Speaking from personal experience, it sure was nice to slide up behind that KC-135 tanker, keeping the mission on track and producing a successful mission outcome. Thanks to all the folks who put that critical resource in the right place at the right time! It's why I am here today to tell the tale.”

-Michael M.

“I was a KC-135R flying crew chief for the 19ARW out of Robins AFB for about 7 years. My greatest recollection was of my final flight taking a Capstone mission of General officers into Moscow Russia. I was first off the plane to secure engine shutdown and pin gears. When I looked up I never saw so many people staring at a U.S. airplane. Made me tremendously proud that day to be part of ending the cold war.”

-David D.

“My experience starts with the KC-135Q tanker. This version is unique in that it was the only version capable of refueling the A-12, YF-12, SR-71 Blackbird family of airplanes. Unlike other airplanes, (which used JP-4 or JP-8 fuel), the Blackbirds used JP7 fuel. So the Q model tanker had to have separate storage provisions to accomplish its mission. Other interesting facts about this tanker: 1. It was the first aircraft with an integral boom intercom. This was for aircraft-to-aircraft communication, while still maintaining radio silence. 2. Another unique system installed on this airplane was a rendezvous beacon. It consisted of a special transponder capable of interrogating the Blackbird’s IFF signal so its reply could be displayed on the modified AN-APN59 search and weather radar system. Without using the radios, they could use this system to rendezvous with the Blackbird using only the tankers radar display. 3. It was also one of the first KC-135 aircraft modified with the high-speed boom. My job was to teach avionics technicians how to troubleshoot and repair various navigation systems installed on this unique aircraft. I was an Air Training Command (ATC) Field Training Detachment (FTD) instructor assigned to Beale AFB, California at the time. (1983-1987) My next experience with tankers was during my assignment to Air Mobility Command Headquarters (HQ AMC) at Scott AFB, Illinois, (1995-1998). I was assigned to the Logistics directorate as the Navigation Systems Superintendent. My job was to oversee logistic issues and projects on the various AMC aircraft. I got to see the Air Force acquisition process first hand while assigned to that position. Of particular note during my assignment to AQ AMC was the report produced on USAF Tanker capabilities and the forecast for KC-135 fleet replacement. This was done sometime in 1995 or 1996. At that time, the consensus of the team investigating the issue concluded that the KC-135 fleet was completely sustainable through the year 2025. That being so, now is the time to start the process of developing the replacement for this venerable old workhorse. I am currently a Instructor/Developer for 787 Maintenance Training.”

-Jeff P.

“From August 1971 to June of 1979 I was crew chief in US Air Force responsible for performing pre and post flight inspection and maintenance of a KC135 Tanker. My primary responsibility was to insure that it was flight ready when called upon. My duty assignments locations ranged from Altus, AFB Oklahoma, March AFB, Riverside, Alaska, Bangkok Thailand, Guam, Spain, Philippines, Hawaii and others. Of note my aircraft was part of the Squadron that supported Air Refueling Operations in Southeast Asia toward the end of the Vietnam War. We refueled everything from B52s, F4s, FB111's, F104's to SR71's. Never had to abort a mission because of a failure of the KC135 . Because of the reliability of the aircraft I received highest award - the U.S Air Force Commendation Metal which I still have to this day.”

-Kenneth W.

“I was a survival instructor in the USAF 1979-1983. My job was to train pilots and aircrew members how to survive in the wild if their aircraft were to crash. I received a commendation for instructor of the quarter one year and got to ride along in a KC-135 refueling mission to refuel a squadron of F-16 fighters over Nevada (Nellis AFB). It was a pat on the back and allowed me the opportunity to learn first hand what some of our aircrews do. I got to sit in the boom pit and fly the boom not during the actual refueling but just before. It was an amazing flight. The precision flying and ability to pump gas at 10,000 feet was pretty cool. The skill of the boom operator and pilots to do this was amazing. The F-16 pilots had their visors down and if they had not I would have been able to see their faces clearly. Looking at the ground 10,000 feet away and the F-16 approach was surreal. I don’t know if this is interesting enough but it was to me and I still tell the story from time to time to my kids. The story gets better each year.”

-Steven L.

“I used to be a Master Navigator on the KC-135. I'm used to running rendezvous as both a tanker and receiver. I was once Wing Navigator at Grissom AFB, the largest tanker wing ever in the world. Although I'm sure your aircraft doesn't have a navigator position, it should. I saved my crew several times when electronic systems failed, but I could still keep the aircraft on course by using shots on the sun, moon, and stars. Flying on tankers was the best job I ever had!”

-Roger S.

“I was in the Air Force for 10 years, from 1981 to 1991. Seven of those years I was an In-Flight Refueler on KC-135 A, R, and Q models. I've refueled aircraft as old as F-106's to F-117's. I have always been impressed with the performance of the KC-135's as was all of my crew members. The KC-135's had so many back up systems, we never, at an point, feared of losing a mission or an aircraft, for that matter. We always considered our aircraft to be the work horses of the fleet. Many times the KC-10's got the glory missions, but the KC-135's were always the ones that were waiting in the wings backing them up - because we were so dependable. I always considered 135's to be a graceful and reliable aircraft and when we went to air shows and put on static displays, I was proud to show people my tanker. She truely was the dependable work horse of the fleet.”

-Daniel C.

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Coming to a Theater Near You…the Boeing KC-7A7

We are very proud of our 80-year tanker heritage at Boeing. But it’s also very important to show you what the future of air refueling could be. While we have highly capable KC-767 tankers flying in operational squadrons in Japan today and in the future in Italy, it's time we provide a glimpse of our 'family of tankers' operating together.

That’s why we’re thrilled to show you our new video...

 

When global reach and mission success is critical, the combat-ready KC-7A7 is ready to deliver maximum capability at lowest cost...all on day one.

Enjoy!

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Northrop Threatening No Participation Over Cost Data

Yesterday Northrop announced that it is considering not participating in thew new KC-X competition. They are concerned that the the way the price requirement is structured may not be fair to them. They are also pursuing the complaint that their cost data was provided to Boeing during the protest of the last award and want access to the same information.

If Northrop and EADS don’t submit a bid it will be hard to get actual competition on the contract. That would leave just one submission, Boeing, or perhaps two from them if they go the route of having a 777 as well as a 767 proposal. This situation would make it hard for the Air Force to proceed.

The chances of Northrop doing this is low and the Department of Defense realizes it. This is the largest procurement coming down the road and both EADS and Boeing need the work. Of course if there is really a belief that their bid cannot win no matter what then Northrop should just save the money and not prepare one. This is only the draft RFP so the next year or so should be interesting.

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Process Under Attack

While our opponent and their supporters have begun attacking the U.S. Air Force and its KC-X Tanker draft Request for Proposal, we have chosen to work within the process and continue asking questions some of which are posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

In the past, this competition to replace America’s critical fleet of air refueling tankers has been fought very publicly. Our preference is to allow the process to play out rather than work the requirements through the media. We will talk about the KC-X tanker competition when we’re ready and when it’s appropriate.

Ultimately, the men and women who selflessly serve our nation deserve the very best. We believe that is an American designed and built, combat-ready tanker with max capability at lowest cost. That tanker is the Boeing KC-7A7.

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Alabama Congressional Delegation Pressing For Northrop And EADS

The Alabama Congressional Delegation will hold a press conference tomorrow to discuss the newly re-started KC-X contest. Based on comments today made by Senator Shelby (R-AL) there is concern among them that the cost focused draft RFP is not the best solution and my be biased against the Northrop Grumman/EADS proposal. The war of words over this has just begun and will drag on until the contract is awarded and the protests end.

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EADS Advanced Refueling Boom Transfers Fuel From Australian A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport to F-16 Fighter — Press Release

EADS Advanced Refueling Boom Transfers Fuel From Australian A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport to F-16 Fighter

ARLINGTON, VA — (Marketwire) — 10/22/09 — The EADS A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) — currently in production for four allied nations — marked another major performance milestone with the first in-flight refueling performed from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) A330 MRTT utilizing its integrated Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS).

The contacts and subsequent fuel transfers were made with two F-16 receiver aircraft and validated the advanced ARBS handling qualities, precision, and stability on the A330 MRTT, as well as the capabilities of its 3-D vision system. The flight lasted four hours and 30 minutes, with more than 3,300 pounds of fuel transferred during 13 contacts.

EADS’ fly-by-wire ARBS is one of the key technological discriminators for the A330 MRTT and Northrop Grumman’s KC-45 offering to the U.S. Air Force, providing the only digital, all-electric fly-by-wire refueling system available today.

The ARBS has already made more than 250 wet and dry contacts with a wide range of receiver aircraft, in a full range of operating conditions and throughout the flight envelope, while the boom was deployed on an EADS test-bed aircraft.

“This significant milestone demonstrates the maturity of the world’s most modern aerial refueling boom system as integrated on the only next-generation tanker aircraft in production today,” said Ralph D. Crosby, Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EADS North America. “The A330 MRTT is one important step closer to service introduction with a key allied military service, the Royal Australian Air Force.”

“The ARBS was just as smooth and easy to control during these contacts as it has been in all our prior work with it,” said Don Cash, boom operator for the A330 MRTT test flight. “The precision of the system makes the boom feel just like an extension of my arm.”

Cash is a retired U.S. Air Force boom operator with more than 20 years’ experience aboard the KC-135 and KC-10, and has been on the ARBS design team for five years. “I’ve had the needs of the warfighter in mind from the beginning, and we’ve arrived at a system that offers them a level of performance and reliability unmatched by any system available in the world today and for the foreseeable future.”

The RAAF’s A330 MRTT is similar in configuration to Northrop Grumman’s KC-45 Tanker offered for the U.S. Air Force to recapitalize its aging aerial refueling fleet. Both aircraft are equipped with the EADS ARBS, plus a pair of all-digital Cobham 905E refueling pods under the wings. This mix of boom and pod refueling technologies ensures the A330 MRTT and KC-45 can transfer fuel to all types of receiver aircraft during a single mission without reconfiguration. The KC-45 also offers a centerline hose-and-drogue fuselage refueling unit.

The boom’s maximum nominal fuel flow rate is 1,200 U.S. gallons per minute, while the pods can deliver up to 420 gallons of fuel per minute. Aerial refueling operations are controlled from a state-of-the-art Remote Aerial Refueling Operator console in the cockpit behind the pilots, incorporating the enhanced vision system with laser infrared lighting and high-definition digital stereoscopic viewing.

“I have situational awareness and a field of view that far exceed anything I ever had during my Air Force career,” Cash said, “with crystal-clear visuals night or day.”

EADS North America is a principal teammate on Northrop Grumman’s KC-45 Tanker program, and is responsible for delivering the aircraft platform, which will be produced at a new aerospace center of excellence to be built in Mobile, Ala.

Airbus Military, an EADS company, is responsible for the design and production of the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport for international customers, which today includes Australia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Orders from those countries total 28 aircraft. The A330 MRTT has won all of the international competitions for new-generation aerial tankers since 2004.

The RAAF will receive its first of five A330 MRTTs in 2010, two of which have completed conversion and currently are in flight test. Upon delivery to the RAAF, they will be designated the KC-30A.

About EADS North America (www.eadsnorthamerica.com)

EADS North America is the North American operation of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defense and related services. As a leader in all sectors of defense and homeland security, EADS North America and its parent company, EADS, contribute over $11 billion to the U.S. economy annually and support more than 200,000 American jobs through its network of suppliers and services. Operating in 17 states, EADS North America offers a broad array of advanced solutions to its customers in the commercial, homeland security, aerospace and defense markets.

Image Available: http://www2.marketwire.com/mw/frame_mw?attachid=1095526
Image Available: http://www2.marketwire.com/mw/frame_mw?attachid=1095522

Media Contact:

Guy Hicks
Vice President, Corporate Communications
EADS North America
Tel: 703 236 3346
E-mail: Email Contact

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Alabama And Mississippi To Unite For Aerospace Lobbying, KC-X

The Governors of Alabama and Mississippi, Bob Riley and Haley Barbour, have launched an effort to establish a non-profit organization to lobby for aerospace in the Gulf Coast area. The two Republicans hope that Florida and Louisiana will join their efforts to “create a world-class aerospace, space and aviation corridor from Panama City, Fla., to Louisiana.” Those four state already have a great deal invested in support to NASA. The hope is that the organization will help gain more contracts and investment in the area for aerospace. Their first target is the KC-X tanker contract which will be assembled in Mobile, AL if Northrop-Grumman and EADS win.

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Working Through the Process

Just wanted to comment on a Reuters story ("U.S. tanker aircraft rules spark concern in industry") that hit the wire last night. It describes "industry executives as starting to raise fundamental questions" about the U.S. Air Force's KC-X Tanker draft Request for Proposal released Sept. 25. If you've been following our blog, we've been very clear about how we’re approaching this. We continue to submit our draft RFP questions to the program office and see them answered at the Federal Business Opportunities website. Now, I don't know who the anonymous quotes were from, and it is not my concern to try and find out. (I can tell you it wasn't me.) I do know, however, that our competitors held a number of "on-background" briefings with reporters yesterday on the draft-RFP.

The bottom line is that the U.S. Air Force is running this tanker competition and both sides have to step forward and meet their mandatory requirements. We will continue to work through the process and look forward to offering a KC-7A7 combat-ready tanker featuring max capability at lowest cost for America.

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John McCain Inserts Himself Into KC-X Competition

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) whose efforts frustrated the Air Force’s attempts to award Boeing a lease deal for the new tanker back in 2001 – 2004 started the whole competition now says that he wants an independent “watchdog” as part of this source selection. He was not clear as to who he would want to do this but hopes to have an unbiased source selection.

If there is a protest over the latest attempt the GAO will be the “independent” agency tasked with sorting that out. If they fail there is always the U.S. Court of Appeals. Those should be independent enough for Senator McCain.

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