Archive for Antonov

House Votes to Require Pentagon to Consider “Unfair Competitive Advantage”

The House of Representatives winding down the lame duck session voted today to pass legislation forcing the Pentagon to take into consideration in source selection whether one of the bidders has an unfair competitive advantage. While not naming any names the law is oriented towards EADS (EADS:P) bid for the new KC-X aerial tanker program. The law has little chance of being considered in the Senate anytime in the next few days.

This is fallout from the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling earlier this year that EADS had received illegal subsidies from European nations. This was mainly in the form of “launch aid” loans that would only be paid back if the aircraft were profitable but also included tax breaks and infrastructure funding. The Pentagon has made clear that U.S. procurement law and regulation do not allow these types of rulings to be a factor so Boeing (BA) supporters in the House and Senate have been making efforts to change the law so that EADS will not have a “competitive advantage”.

The WTO has also made a ruling against the European counter claim against Boeing that it had received some aid from the U.S. government.

The KC-X is in this situation as there are currently only two Western companies that are able to build this aircraft. In order to gain any competition with a goal of cost savings Boeing and EADS must be considered. A wild card attempt by U.S. Aerospace teamed with Ukrainian manufacturer Antonov was not considered.

If you think Congress is upset about EADS think about how they would react to an Antonov win no matter how cost effective or capable it would have been.

Until the Air Force makes its source selection decision known this kind of fighting will continue. Protests by the loser are also to be expected as the KC-X saga enters its tenth year.

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GAO Denies U.S Aerospace’s Protest

The third bidder for the KC-X tanker contract, U.S. Aerospace (USAE) and its Ukrainian partner Antonov, had their protest denied yesterday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The company had filed the protest because the Air Force had said their proposal was delivered past the deadline for submission. U.S. Aerospace claimed that their courier was deliberately delayed and should have been allowed to make the delivery on time.

This decision leaves only the Boeing (BA) and EADS (EADS:P) bids as being considered for the contract. The Air Force had previously said that a decision would be announced around the middle of November but there have been reports that this might slip.

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Air Force Preparing for Slip to KC-X Award?

There are now reports that the U.S. Air Force may slip the announcement of a winner of the KC-X contract until the end of the year. The last planned date was the middle of November. This was a slight slip as the original goal was to have work start on that date.

Now it could be as late as just before Christmas that an award will be made. There are potential concerns with the results of the mid-term elections in early November that may have to be reflected on when coming to a decision on whether to award to Boeing (BA) or EADS (EADS:P). No matter what the program may see further delay if the loser protests the decision.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is also addressing two protests by the U.S. Aerospace (USAE) and Antonov team over the failure of the Air Force to accept their proposal claiming it was delivered five minutes too late. There is a chance that any upholding of the protests would cause further delays to the source selection and award.

The KC-X is now on its third iteration over the the last nine years and continues to look as if a new tanker won’t be purchased anytime soon.

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First Protest Filed for KC-X Competition

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.

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Can U.S. Aerospace and Antonov Win?

The KC-X new aerial tanker program Request for Proposals (RFP) attracted a third bid this time around. U.S. Aerospace submitted one based on the Ukrainian made Antonov transport. The question that immediately comes to mind is can this team win, or will it be Boeing (BA) or EADS (EADS:P)?

Realistically the chances of this bid being selected are low. The companies had asked for a sixty day extension to work on their proposal. The Air Force already slipping the contract deadline one month to accommodate EADS refused the further two month slip. This would have pushed award into 2011 with the current planned date of mid-November this year already late enough. The U.S. has been trying to get a replacement tanker for the aging KC-135 since 2001.

U.S. Aerospace and its partner obviously felt their proposal could be improved with the extra two months but did go ahead an turn one in that they feel meets all of the Air Force requirements. At the same time in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) U.S. Aerospace makes clear that the Air Force could easily reject them.

The company writes “For any or all of these reasons, the Air Force may not select our bid, may disqualify our bid, or may refuse to consider it on the merits, or at all,” based on myriad factors. These include not meeting requirements, not having qualified sub-contractors, not having necessary facilities or capabilities and even missing the deadline. They didn’t do that turning one in on time.

Of course all of this could be standard “Forward Looking Statements” meant to make clear to anyone investing in their stock that they are being conservative in their estimates. The stock was trading at 18 cents at the close on Friday.

Certainly they have offered a cost effective approach. The Air Force must consider if it meets their requirements and they have the ability to produce the systems to the necessary schedule. Certainly stranger things have happened in defense contracting.

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Boeing and Antonov Follow EADS and Submit KC-X Proposals

Boeing (BA) submitted their proposal for the KC-X aerial tanker program a day after rival EADS (EADS:P) did. Today was the day it was formally due, EADS coming in a little early. The Boeing proposal stresses their cost and size benefits over competing EADS with their larger A330 based aircraft. Boeing is basing their bid on a modified 767 airliner with advanced avionics from the yet to enter service 787.

Also U.S. Aerospace and Antonov submitted their competing proposal after losing a bid to delay things sixty days. There total cost is under thirty billion for a contract the Air Force has estimated at $37.5 billion based on an aircraft cost of only $150 million each.

The Air Force plan is to award the contract in four months. The three bids may make the competition’s source selection last longer and may also raise the chance of a protest.

If the U.S. Aerospace / Antonov team wins it might get very interesting.

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