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

Reports That EADS Has U.S. Partner

EADS (EADS:P) had decided to go it alone with their own bid for the KC-X aerial tanker after former partner Northrop Grumman (NOC) decided the requirements favored Boeing (BA) too much. All that meant is that EADS would prime the contract but would probably find other companies, including U.S. ones, to sub for them. It is now being said by EADS that they have found at least one U.S. defense contractor to do “sensitive equipment”. The company is unidentified at this point.

This only makes sense as it allows Airbus to deliver a A330 aircraft or tanker to a U.S. facility to do the integration of the military equipment such as radios and defensive equipment. EADS is planning to do this with Lockheed Martin (LMT) on the Army’s new attempt at buying an Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) and should do this for KC-X. Lockheed planned the same thing with Augusta Westland on the failed VH-71 program. By using an American company to do this sort of work it helps with security and technology transfer issues. It is also the reason that EADS North America exists.

Leave a Comment

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.

Leave a Comment

President Obama Calls For “Free and Fair” Tanker Contest

At a joint press conference with France’s President Sarkorzy President Obama said that he expected the KC-X contest to be a “free and fair” one. This of course assumes that another company besides Boeing (BA) bids on the program.

France has spoken out strongly about concerns the current RFP was written in such a way that only Boeing could win it. Northrop Grumman (NOC) decided not to submit a bid this time around due to these kind of issues. EADS (EADS:P) who had planned on partnering with Northrop is currently considering submitting a separate bid. Sarkozy has expressed his support of EADS and supposedly discussed the issue with Obama today. Obama also stressed that the DoD makes the final decision and he has no role in any of this.

The political fallout if Boeing doesn’t win will be significant this time around — even for Obama.

Leave a Comment

Reports of Other Bidders for KC-X Emerge?

Over the weekend it was reported that the Russian state owned aircraft company, United Aircraft, might be interested in bidding on the KC-X proposal. With Northrop now planning on not participating with EADS only Boeing was left as a confirmed bidder. Russia was about the only other country that had the capability to submit a proposal as they have already made tankers for themselves, India and other users. The thought though of Il-76 based tankers fueling F-22 is sort of hard to imagine. Documents provided to the Seattle Times show that United Aircraft would team with a World Aviation Maintenance to form a new company to bid. The proposal would be based on the Il-96 airliner rather then the older transport tanker already in service.

At the same time there are reports that EADS may submit a bid with themselves as the prime. Earlier this month the company said that it was not confident of being able to do this. EADS-North America could certainly be used as a prime contractor. The time needed for the company to prepare a proposal of this magnitude is why there is talk of extending the deadline three months.

It would be good for the U.S. Defense Department and Air Force to have some form of competition in the latest attempt to award this contract. Whether the Russian or EADS based bids would be viable is another matter. It is going to be difficult though to award what amounts to a sole-source contract with the mood in Congress of many Northrop and EADS supporters.

Comments (3)

Backers of Two Tanker Contracts Want To Stay Anonymous

The Wichita Eagle reports that the a group backing building both the Boeing and EADs tankers, doesn’t want to reveal its backers:

The investors backing a campaign asking the government to split its contract for aerial refueling tankers between Boeing and Northrop Grumman want to remain anonymous for now. The campaign is called Build Them Both.

“We are funded by a group of investors who have asked to remain nameless at this time,” said the effort’s campaign manager, Carrie Giddens.

The group is not union sponsored and does not have ties to either Northrop or Boeing, Giddens said in an e-mail exchange. However, “we have sought out funding from both companies, their suppliers and unions who would be impacted by building them both.”

The requests went out in the past two weeks.

On Monday, Giddens called Northrop’s decision to pull out of the bidding process “bad news for American workers, our men and women in uniform, and for the taxpayer.”

With only one company seeking a contract, 50,000 jobs that would have been created won’t be, Giddens said in the statement. “Without an ongoing competition there is no way to control costs, to the detriment of our military and taxpayer.”

Leave a Comment

Now Reports That EADS May Bid After All

There is a rumor that the Pentagon may delay the deadline for submission of a proposal for the KC-X to accommodate either a solo bid or another partnership. This contradicts what was reported yesterday that EADS-NA CEO Sean O’Keefe said the company wouldn’t bid without Northrop Grumman (NOC). It will be seriously difficult for the company to bid by itself. It would need to find another U.S. company to work with.

This might be second thoughts by DoD as they realize how difficult doing a single bid contract award will be. This is not a sole source contract but right now it would only receive one qualified offer.

Leave a Comment

Wall Street Journal Says Trans Atlantic Defense Deal Falters

The Wall Street Journal has weighed on the KC-X Tanker bid process, in an article entitled “Trans Atlantic Defense Deal Falters.” The article notes:

The decision by Northrop Grumman Corp. and its European partner this week to drop out of a $40 billion competition to build aerial-refueling tankers for the Air Force is the latest example of how trans-Atlantic defense ventures have faltered.

Many observers view the size of the tanker deal, and the prominent role played by Northrop partner European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., as the most significant instance of how trans-Atlantic partnerships can get tripped up.

Noorthrop billboard in Alabama in 2008 advertised a future tanker plant, but the company quit the project.

“There’s no doubt that this outcome will reinforce the long-held understanding in Europe that the U.S. defense market is highly protected,” said Alex Nicholl, a specialist on European defense companies at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“This is not the first time that the rules of a U.S. competition have been rewritten to suit the American competitor. No doubt it won’t be the last.”

Read the entire article at theJournal.

Leave a Comment

EADS-NA Says Not Comfortable Priming KC-X Contract

Aviation Week is reporting that EADS-North America felt it needed an partner on the KC-X contract as it was not comfortable being the prime for such a large effort. While EADS has experienced some decent growth in the U.S. it still has a fairly lean organization.

The company was confident that they could provide to Northrop the basic airframes on cost and schedule. Northrop would have then been responsible for the necessary military modifications. EADS would have had to find a partner in General Dynamics, Raytheon or Lockheed Martin. There would be few large contractors available in the U.S. with the past experience to support a contract of this size.

Leave a Comment