KC-46A Costs Reportedly Increase

A few weeks ago it was reported that Boeing (BA) had already informed the U.S. Air Force of at least a $300 million increase in the costs of the first phase of the KC-46A aerial tanker program. This led to Reuters asking the Air Force some follow up questions on the situation.

They are now reporting that the way the current contract is structured the Government and Boeing would share in the first $1 billion increase beyond the target price of $3.9 billion for the EMD contract which will also deliver 18 tankers. The original contract value was about $3.6 billion.

Once the price gets beyond $4.9 billion Boeing would be responsible for all costs. Up to that they would pay 40% and the government 60 or $600 million. The reports last month had Boeing predicting that they would spend at least $4.2 billion.

This was the third attempt by the Air Force to award the new tanker contract since 2001. An attempt to award a sole source lease to Boeing was derailed by fraudulent activity by Air Force acquisition chief Darleen Druyun and Boeing’s CFO. In 2008 EADS teamed with Northrop Grumman (NOC) won a contest that was overturned on protest by Boeing. This latest contract is the result of the new competition held due to Boeing’s successful protest. EADS was not able to match the price that Boeing offered which is now seemingly controversial due to the reported cost increases.

Leave a Comment

Alabama Senator Sessions Responds To Congressman Dicks

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) issued a press release today criticizing Washington Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA) for his comments basically telling EADS (EADS:P) not to attempt to bid on the KC-X contract.

In the release Sessions makes clear his desire for competition in the tanker contract while continuing to support EADS who have proposed assembling the Airbus 330 aircraft in Mobile, AL. Sessions writes: “Defense companies should understand that, contrary to Representative Dick’s comments, the majority of members in the House and Senate want a robust competition engineered not to benefit a single company, but to produce the best airplane for the war fighter.”

In Sessions view having EADS submit a bid along with Boeing (BA) will only strengthen the program. The award of what will amount to a sole-source contract to Boeing if EADS or another company does not bid will be a difficult process for the Air Force leaving many different avenues for criticism. This is especially true if Boeing has their struggles down the road.

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)

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

Split Buy Again?

One of the solutions that has been mooted to solve the KC-X issue is to buy aircraft from both Boeing (BA) and EADS (EADS.P). This would certainly eliminate many of the issues around the source selection. The Defense Department and Air Force have not supported this idea in the past due to the logistical costs related to operating two dissimilar aircraft. Of course the problem the Air Force faces is that the KC-30 and KC-767 are too dissimilar.

Some in Congress and in the industry suggested the split buy last Summer and now it has been raised again. If Northrop Grumman (NOC) does refuse to submit a bid then the contest is on hold unless there is the will to do a sole source contract again. The split buy would solve that issue and keep Northrop playing.

We will have to see how this plays out.

Comments (1)

Northrop Congressional Supporters Continue Harsh Words

Last week Northrop Grumman (NOC) and its partner EADS (EADS.P) wrote a letter to the Defense Department stating that they are not interested in bidding on the KC-X contract if the current RFP language stands. Their argument is that it is currently biased towards a smaller aircraft which means that it is set up to give Boeing the contract. In their eyes there is no reason to go through the motion of bidding just not to win.

This of course caused all sorts of critics to rise up and claim that Northrop was trying to force the Government to bias the RFP and contract towards Northrop. Basically this is an attempt to blackmail the Government. The problem the Air Force has faced is that they need to write a RFP that gets them the best value bid meeting all of its requirements and is done in such a way that no protest occurs. This is proving difficult to do. The two aircraft, KC-767 or A330, are dissimilar enough that the requirements have to be carefully chosen. At the same time there is a great deal of pressure in Congress to support American companies and products. This is the state that the U.S. has gotten itself into by allowing only one major source of aircraft of this size to remain — Boeing (BA).

Now Northrop’s supporters in Congress are striking back. In a recent editorial the Congressman for Mobile, AL where EADS will assemble the aircraft, Jo Bonner (R-AL), writes that it is unfair to tar Northrop. In his eyes the Government is going out of their way to award a sole source contract to Boeing. This violates the spirit if not the law on contracting. He writes “And the reason Northrop Grumman, and its partner EADS, was not playing a game of chicken is because the draft RFP, released by the Air Force in September, has been all but written to guarantee the pre-selection of the smaller, older and much less capable Boeing 767”.

That is the crux of the problem. The Government lost the last attempt to award the contract competitively. Their attempt to let a sole source lease to Boeing before that was overturned by Congress. This next round doesn’t look good either. There is a crying need for this capability and it lags because of politics, industrial policy and poor management.

Comments (4)

AFL-CIO Endorses Awarding KC-X Contract To Boeing

At the AFL-CIO Now Blog there is a story about the ten presidents of the AFL-CIO state federations sending a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates endorsing giving the tanker contract to Boeing. The union heads state that this is not only in the best interests of U.S. national security but also as an industrial base issue.

One of the reasons the U.S. is where it is at with this contract is that there is only one domestic source for the aircraft, Boeing. The only other manufacturer that can be really considered is EADS. To achieve any level of competition they have to be included otherwise the U.S. should just go back to the sole source lease idea shot down in 2001 – 2003.

Leave a Comment