GAO Expresses Concerns with KC-46A Development

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the KC-46A new aerial tanker program and expressed some concerns with the schedule. Boeing (BA) won the contract to develop a version of their 767 airliner and deliver 17 aircraft after a long struggle with EADS (EADS:P).

GAO is worried that some of the software that is being developed to control the mission planning, defense and routing of the aircraft is being done at the same time as production and testing. GAO also considers the new fuel boom operating station and control higher risk as it has yet to be demonstrated in normal operating environment and at a high maturity. Similar systems are in use on only 3 tankers operated by non-U.S. military.

The KC-46A contract as expected has had some cost increases and earlier this year the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (D,OT&E) also expressed that the test schedule was not adequate and the program did not allow enough time for the necessary testing.

The Air Force and Boeing dispute the reports claiming the program is on track and risks manageable.

Leave a Comment

Boeing and DoD Release Latest Estimate for KC-46A First Phase Contract

The Hill is reporting that Boeing (BA) currently estimates the first phase of the KC-46A contract at about $5.2 billion or 6% above the $4.9 billion ceiling price. All of that increase if that is what it turns out to be will be paid for by Boeing. The cost share of the difference between $3.9 billion target price and the $4.9 billion ceiling will be split between the Government and Boeing.

There was some consternation when the reports of Boeing’s efforts costing a great deal more then the $3.6 billion price at which the contract was awarded. This led to charges that Boeing “bought in” the contract by bidding deliberately low so that competitor EADS North America, part of European aerospace giant, EADS (EADS:P), could not win.

As the contract goes forward the total cost will change depending on what challenges the program faces and if it needs more time and investment to develop the variant of the Boeing 767 airliner. It may end up being less then $5.2 billion or even more as the program evolves.

Leave a Comment

Recent Tanker News Link Round Up

The site has been quiet since the award of the KC-46A contract to Boeing (BA), but here are some links to articles about different aspects of the program and the companies involved in the contest:

Boeing is slowly releasing information about the KC-46A design.

World Trade Organization softens ruling against EADS (EADS:P). Boeing and U.S. still claim victory.

House puts strong cost controls on KC-46A with mandatory reporting requirements for Air Force.

First Australian KC-30 arrives at RAAF base for introduction into service.

Leave a Comment

EADS NA Will Not Protest

At a press conference earlier today EADS NA (EADS:P) stated that they will not protest the KC-X tanker award to Boeing (BA).

This means that the U.S. Air Force has awarded a new tanker contract successfully and the last decade of fits-and-starts is over. Now the emphasis shifts to Boeing and their efforts to meet the schedule and performance requirements of the program.

Hopefully this means in a few years the KC-46A will be flying over the United States.

Comments (1)

Boeing Signs Contract While Waiting on EADS to Move

The Air Force and Boeing (BA) executed the first part of the new KC-X aerial tanker contract. This is a $3.5 billion development effort that will deliver the first four KC-46A aircraft.

Unlike many other programs of this sort the U.S. is going to try a Fixed Price contract for the development effort as a cost control measure. In the past it has been hard to do real development work this way as there may be unknown issues that cause more schedule and cost. The assumption is because the KC-767 (and the KC-30) were fairly mature systems already in production for other customers that this risk is minimal. Of course the KC-46A is not identical to the other 767 tankers Boeing has built for Japan and Italy.

At the same time it has been reported that EADS NA (EADS:P) received their debrief from the Source Selection Board and now has a few more days to file a protest. There would have had to be something fairly serious revealed in the briefings to warrant such a move but until the deadline passes without one being filed there is always a chance a protest will occur. Although all the reports are now saying that EADS will not protest now even though there remain few future programs for the European aerospace company to bid on and get into the U.S. market.

Leave a Comment

Will EADS Protest?

Now that the U.S. Air Force and Defense Department have awarded the KC-X new aerial tanker contract to Boeing (BA) for their KC-46A aircraft the major question is whether the losing EADS NA (EADS:P) bid will protest? In 2008 when the Air Force selected Northrop Grumman (NOC) and EADS Boeing did protest and the choice was overturned leading to this current iteration of the contest. Considering this is the only fixed wing aviation program in the near future or at least until the Next Generation Bomber program emerges it may be hard for EADS not to protest on the chance that they might win or at least there would be another competition.

In their public statement the company is non-committal about the chances of filing a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). They say “EADS North America officials today expressed disappointment and concern over the announcement by the U.S. Air Force that it had selected a high-risk, concept aircraft over the proven, more capable KC-45 for the nation’s next aerial refueling tanker.” but they also say ““Though we had hoped for a different outcome, it’s important to remember that this is one business opportunity among many for EADS in the United States,”. So read into that what you may.

At a minimum the filing of an unsuccessful protest would delay the initiation of the contract for about 100 days making the delivery of any new tankers to the Air Force even later then they will be after an almost ten year process to build a new one.

Comments (2)

And the Winner is Boeing!

The U.S. Defense Department and Air Force announced that Boeing (BA) has been selected to provide the new KC-X aerial tanker. The design submitted by EADS NA (EADS:P) was not chosen.

The new KC-46A will be based on Boeing’s 767 airliner design.

The Secretary of the Air Force, Mr. Michael Donley, stated that the decision was based on “mission effectiveness in wartime and life cycle costs as embodied in fuel efficiency and military construction costs”. This might be a hint that the larger KC-30 aircraft from EADS might have required more investment in new and bigger facilities then the smaller 767 tanker.

The contract has been very political with states that stand to gain thousands of jobs from the program using their Senators and Representatives to push for the respective bidders.

EADS does have the right to protest the decision as Boeing did in 2008 when the contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman (NOC) and EADS. They will have to wait until their debrief by the Air Force before making any decision about that.

Even an unsuccessful protest may delay the start of the program for several weeks and the Air Force plans on receiving the first 18 aircraft in 2017. The new KC-46A will replace Cold War era KC-135R tankers some of which have been flying for fifty years.

Cross posted at Defense Procurement News.

Comments (3)

KC-X Soon? Protest Coming

At a recent press availability during the Air Force Association’s winter conference the Secretary of the Air Force indicated that the KC-X new aerial tanker contract will be awarded as early as this week. Earlier rumors had it being done in the next month or so.

Mr. Donley also made it clear that there is a potential for a protest of the award by either Boeing (BA) or EADS NA (EADS:P) if they don’t win and that the Air Force and the Defense Department are prepared to deal with it.

This is the third attempt to award this contract with the last contest won by Northrop Grumman (NOC) and EADS in 2008 overturned on Boeing’s protest. Due to the size, importance and the conflicts between the U.S. contractor and its supporters and the European aerospace giant this may continue to be an messy, extended affair.

For now everyone must wait until the decision is announced which could occur as early as tomorrow after 5:00 Eastern.

Leave a Comment

Air Force Plans Award Before April 1st

Despite the current issues with defense funding the Defense Department and Air Force reportedly said that they hope to award the KC-X aerial tanker contract within a month. The budget sent forward for 2012 on Monday stated that the planned contract was valued at around $35 billion.

It sounds like that even with the Pentagon acting under a continuing resolution rather then an official budget that at least the winner will be announced. There is some concern that without a 2011 budget resolution from Congress a new contract of this magnitude might not be able to be awarded. This means that the Air Force will have to wait until October 2011 to have initial funding for the purchase of the new tanker.

The KC-X saga is heavy with political overtones as supporters of both Boeing (BA) and EADS (EADS:P) in Congress continue to lobby OSD and threaten problems if their preferred source is not chosen.

The Air Force has been trying since early in this decade to buy a new tanker and this award may be the last step towards doing that. Although the chances of a protest by the loser remain high and the current budget situation between President Obama and Congress may make it difficult to get the funding resolved anytime soon.

Leave a Comment

Both Companies Submit Final Proposals But Will Continuing Resolution Allow Award?

It has been confirmed that both Boeing (BA) and EADS North America (EADS:P) submitted their final proposals for the KC-X aerial tanker program. The Air Force had asked that they be submitted by today and both companies turned them in early.

One pressing question that remains is if the Department of Defense remains under Continuing Resolution (CR) for the rest of the year rather then Congress passing a proper budget is it possible to award the new contract? It looks like the Republican controlled House is planning on doing CR until the new Fiscal Year (FY) starts in October. There has not yet been any statement from the Government on this question.

One would think that even if the source selection is carried out and a winner chosen with the caveat that the contract award would have to wait until the next FY it might affect the pricing. Having a requirement to guarantee the pricing for several months has not been identified yet and it would have some effect on each company’s bids.

As everything with this program nothing is easy and it seems this third attempt may be even more complex and controversial than the first two.

Comments (1)