There has been plenty of expectations that the loser of the latest KC-X competition would file a protest. Boeing (BA) was able to overturn the award to Northrop Grumman (NOC) and EADS (EADS:P) in 2008 when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) upheld its protest of that contract. Now there has already been a protest of this round before the source selection has really got underway. The protester, too, is not one of the usual suspects but U.S. Aerospace (USAE) who announced that they were teaming with Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer Antonov for the multi-billion program to replace the KC-135 in use by the U.S. Air Force.
U.S. Aerospace is protesting the fact that the Air Force said their proposal was received late and will not be considered in the competition. The service has made clear that only the EADS and Boeing ones were received by the deadline of 2:00 PM on 9 July.
The upstart bidder says that their proposal was at the site thirty minutes prior to that time but that Air Force personnel deliberately delayed the courier preventing delivery until five minutes after the deadline. The Air Force is standing by its decision.
The KC-X has been an on-again-off-again program for most of this decade. The initial plan of a lease of 767 based aircraft from Boeing was thrown out amid convictions of U.S. Air Force and Boeing personnel for corruption. The second attempt as mentioned above was lost on protest. This third try looked fairly smooth once EADS committed to bid on their own until late June when the U.S. Aerospace proposal emerged. Now a source selection that is supposed to be complete in early November is facing a potential hiccup depending on how the GAO rules on U.S. Aerospace’s protest. The addition of a third proposal to evaluate may cause delays in the selection and award process.
KC-X just gets more interesting as time passes.