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.

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Commercial Air Sales Turn EADS Back to Profitability

Sales of their Airbus commercial airliners has somewhat tempered EADS (EADS:P) feelings about losing the KC-X contract to rival Boeing (BA). In the last year thanks to large orders the European aerospace company returned to profitability after a few years of struggles.

Revenue in 2010 was over $60 billion and the company earned a profit of around $1.5 billion. The company has also been able to increase its cash holdings dramatically with an eye on expanding U.S. defense business through acquisitions.

Boeing and EADS unlike other large defense contractors do have the commercial aviation market to help temper ups-and-downs in military spending. They are though soon to be facing more competition from companies like China’s CAI who especially want to enter there own domestic airline market.

EADS has carefully looked at different potential acquisitions in the U.S. to help grow its nascent defense work there. Certainly they now have the necessary funds to do even a rather large one although something like buying Northrop Grumman’s (NOC) shipbuilding group would seem a little too large and ambitious. EADS will most likely target a medium sized defense contractor who provide services or limited hardware.

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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.

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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.

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Analysis: EADS Participating In KC-X Contest

This is an article I wrote at BNET: Government about EADS decision to submit a proposal.

“The decade-long saga to replace the KC-X aerial tanker contract begins a new chapter. The European aerospace giant EADS (EADS: P) and Airbus, its subsidiary, announced that it will definitely submit a contract proposal to the Air Force. The program will replace the aging Cold War KC-135 tankers (pictured).

Boeing (BA) thought it had won the contract for at least 179 new aircraft earlier this year when Northrop Grumman (NOC) who had bid in partnership with EADS withdrew from the bidding. Then, earlier this month, the Pentagon agreed to extend the deadline, at EADS’ request, to allow it time to submit a new bid.”

Read the rest at BNET.

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EADS Back in Play for the KC-X, the Aerial Tanker That Just Can’t Get off the Ground — From BNET: Government

Here is the latest post I wrote for BNET: Government —

“When Northrop Grumman (NOC) announced in March that it would not bid for the new aerial tanker for the U.S. Air Froce, the KC-X, Boeing (BA) and its many supporters in Congress believed it was sure to get the $35 billion contract. Now the deadline to bid has been extended 60 days to allow the European aerospace giant, EADS (EADS:P), to submit a proposal.

There are already reports that EADS, which would seek to provide A330 airliners made by its subsidiary, Airbus, to be modified into the tankers, is talking to other defense contractors about partnering.”

The rest may be found here.

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