Time to Move On

Boeing's emphasis since Day One of the renewed KC-X competition has been on clarity -- in the process as well as in Boeing's approach to the bid process.  That brings us to this question of pricing data from the last campaign.  Perhaps we can put this distracting side issue to rest and get on with the process of arriving at the final requirements and evaluation criteria that will enable the Air Force to flawlessly choose the right tanker at the best value.

It's been said that our competitor has been disadvantaged due to the release of their pricing data from the last competition.  The fact is, during that previous acquisition effort the U.S. Government followed the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and released limited price information from the successful offerer. More specifically, the FAR mandates that the price of the awarded contract be made publicly available upon request.  This is how the system works to protect the American taxpayer and keep the award of billions of defense dollars honest.

Simply put, when you win a contract you expect details to become public along with details of the decision that are shared with the team that was not awarded the contract. And there's no requirement for the government to share the losing bidder's proprietary pricing information with the winner or the public.  Indeed, when Boeing won the competition to build the new U.S. Air Force combat search-and-rescue helicopter the post-award process followed this same regulatory requirement.

What you may be unaware of is that on August 20, 2008, to ensure that every effort was made to "level the playing field" in a new competition, the government released consistent KC-X pricing information to both sides.  In other words, the Department of Defense has already handed over a comparative amount of Boeing's pricing data from the previous KC-X competition.

The Air Force has said repeatedly that this old data is no longer relevant for either side in the renewed competition.  Meanwhile, others continue to contend that their ability to win is dependent on this rather than on simply offering the best proposal that meets the Air Force's new requirements.  We are confident that at the end of this process next summer the contract award will be based on that rather than on any special treatment given to one competitor over another.

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In Your Words

One of the best parts of having a website like UnitedStatesTanker.com is receiving emails from the men and women who have served our nation in the U.S. Air Force. They have some incredible stories related to Boeing tankers that I’d like to share with you. And there’s not a better time to do that than this week from one of the best shows in the world – the 2009 Airlift/Tanker Association convention and symposium in Nashville, Tenn.

I have my own great memories related to the KC-135. My assignment at Loring Air Force Base in Northern Maine was to a KC-135R unit known as the 407th Air Refueling Squadron. While my job was to serve as a non-flying executive officer, the aircrews made a point to take me flying with them as much as possible so I could learn “the business.” It was then I realized how close-knit folks can get in a flying squadron and how hard they work. Our toughness was tested when our base went through a horrific crash and terrible tragedy. Yet we all came together and still got the Strategic Air Command mission done. To this day, I’m so thankful to have been a small part of that unit and proud to have served with the 407th.

Hope you enjoy these great stories…we’ve posted them unedited and only removed the last names for privacy reasons.

“My love of aviation goes back to my childhood. I don't know if it's because of an early airplane ride from an uncle or having grown up in Boeing country. Somewhere in Junior High I decided I wanted to be a crew chief on a KC-135 Stratotanker. After completion of Basic training at Lackland AFB I was sent to school to learn how to work on USAF aircraft. I was surprised and extremely happy when I discovered that I was to be a crew chief on KC-135's. Stationed at Ellsworth AFB in SD I got to enjoy 4 yrs working on both KC and EC 135's. The story I remember best is when a B-1 went down on our south hammerhead. All 4 crew members ejected, but one was hurt pretty bad. Latter on that day we got the word to prep one of our birds for immediate Medivac for the injured B-1 crew member. We were able to prep a KC-135 and launch it several hours before the next medical plane could even arrive. This is but one story of a wonderful aircraft. Just a side note, the two planes I worked on were KC-135R 62-3540 and KC135A 61-0289. Both were built before I was even born.”

-Eric O

“I was the crew chief on KC-135A tail number 59-1498 from 1972-1974. I flew that tanker to Southeast Asia in support of the Vietnam War, out of U-Tapao RTNAB during LINEBACKER I & II ... we had a F-4 come up to get fuel over Da Nang in a thunderstorm ... get fuel or punch out ... we passed fuel in some of the nastiest air I've flown through ... a great boom operator and a great aircraft got that Phantom home that night ... I sat SAC Alert countless times at Pease AFB, Westover AFB and Goose Bay Labrador, I flew it in support of the Yom Kippur War in Oct 1973 out of Lajes for 2 weeks .. that aircraft never let me down and was always pride of the fleet at Pease. Later in my (2002) career (now an officer and Medical Commander at Pope AFB NC) ... a fellow commander found my old bird at Mt Home and had my retirement flag flown onboard a Red Flag mission and I got a great letter from the crew ... a short time later, the aircraft transferred to ANG and another fellow Commander had the old crew chief tool box saved and sent to me as a retirement gift. I retired from in 2003 ... I rejoined the USAFR in 2004, while I did not get a chance to see the aircraft again ... I recently "re-retired" from the USAFR and my First Sgt found me a photo of 1498 and presented it to me at my Change of Command ceremony 3 weeks ago. That tanker has been a part of America's Air Defense backbone for 50 years ... she still flies in Bangor Maine ... still serving and even out-lasted my 36 years of service. No one can match Boeing for building a Tanker ... period... end of story. Find an airlifter better than the C-17 around the world ... can't be done ... and you never find a better tanker than one with "BOEING" stamped on the data plate.”

-Charles T.

“As a former E-3A AWACS flight crewmember (flight engineer), some of our long (and I mean LONG) missions suddenly turned into a fuel-critical situation. Speaking from personal experience, it sure was nice to slide up behind that KC-135 tanker, keeping the mission on track and producing a successful mission outcome. Thanks to all the folks who put that critical resource in the right place at the right time! It's why I am here today to tell the tale.”

-Michael M.

“I was a KC-135R flying crew chief for the 19ARW out of Robins AFB for about 7 years. My greatest recollection was of my final flight taking a Capstone mission of General officers into Moscow Russia. I was first off the plane to secure engine shutdown and pin gears. When I looked up I never saw so many people staring at a U.S. airplane. Made me tremendously proud that day to be part of ending the cold war.”

-David D.

“My experience starts with the KC-135Q tanker. This version is unique in that it was the only version capable of refueling the A-12, YF-12, SR-71 Blackbird family of airplanes. Unlike other airplanes, (which used JP-4 or JP-8 fuel), the Blackbirds used JP7 fuel. So the Q model tanker had to have separate storage provisions to accomplish its mission. Other interesting facts about this tanker: 1. It was the first aircraft with an integral boom intercom. This was for aircraft-to-aircraft communication, while still maintaining radio silence. 2. Another unique system installed on this airplane was a rendezvous beacon. It consisted of a special transponder capable of interrogating the Blackbird’s IFF signal so its reply could be displayed on the modified AN-APN59 search and weather radar system. Without using the radios, they could use this system to rendezvous with the Blackbird using only the tankers radar display. 3. It was also one of the first KC-135 aircraft modified with the high-speed boom. My job was to teach avionics technicians how to troubleshoot and repair various navigation systems installed on this unique aircraft. I was an Air Training Command (ATC) Field Training Detachment (FTD) instructor assigned to Beale AFB, California at the time. (1983-1987) My next experience with tankers was during my assignment to Air Mobility Command Headquarters (HQ AMC) at Scott AFB, Illinois, (1995-1998). I was assigned to the Logistics directorate as the Navigation Systems Superintendent. My job was to oversee logistic issues and projects on the various AMC aircraft. I got to see the Air Force acquisition process first hand while assigned to that position. Of particular note during my assignment to AQ AMC was the report produced on USAF Tanker capabilities and the forecast for KC-135 fleet replacement. This was done sometime in 1995 or 1996. At that time, the consensus of the team investigating the issue concluded that the KC-135 fleet was completely sustainable through the year 2025. That being so, now is the time to start the process of developing the replacement for this venerable old workhorse. I am currently a Instructor/Developer for 787 Maintenance Training.”

-Jeff P.

“From August 1971 to June of 1979 I was crew chief in US Air Force responsible for performing pre and post flight inspection and maintenance of a KC135 Tanker. My primary responsibility was to insure that it was flight ready when called upon. My duty assignments locations ranged from Altus, AFB Oklahoma, March AFB, Riverside, Alaska, Bangkok Thailand, Guam, Spain, Philippines, Hawaii and others. Of note my aircraft was part of the Squadron that supported Air Refueling Operations in Southeast Asia toward the end of the Vietnam War. We refueled everything from B52s, F4s, FB111's, F104's to SR71's. Never had to abort a mission because of a failure of the KC135 . Because of the reliability of the aircraft I received highest award - the U.S Air Force Commendation Metal which I still have to this day.”

-Kenneth W.

“I was a survival instructor in the USAF 1979-1983. My job was to train pilots and aircrew members how to survive in the wild if their aircraft were to crash. I received a commendation for instructor of the quarter one year and got to ride along in a KC-135 refueling mission to refuel a squadron of F-16 fighters over Nevada (Nellis AFB). It was a pat on the back and allowed me the opportunity to learn first hand what some of our aircrews do. I got to sit in the boom pit and fly the boom not during the actual refueling but just before. It was an amazing flight. The precision flying and ability to pump gas at 10,000 feet was pretty cool. The skill of the boom operator and pilots to do this was amazing. The F-16 pilots had their visors down and if they had not I would have been able to see their faces clearly. Looking at the ground 10,000 feet away and the F-16 approach was surreal. I don’t know if this is interesting enough but it was to me and I still tell the story from time to time to my kids. The story gets better each year.”

-Steven L.

“I used to be a Master Navigator on the KC-135. I'm used to running rendezvous as both a tanker and receiver. I was once Wing Navigator at Grissom AFB, the largest tanker wing ever in the world. Although I'm sure your aircraft doesn't have a navigator position, it should. I saved my crew several times when electronic systems failed, but I could still keep the aircraft on course by using shots on the sun, moon, and stars. Flying on tankers was the best job I ever had!”

-Roger S.

“I was in the Air Force for 10 years, from 1981 to 1991. Seven of those years I was an In-Flight Refueler on KC-135 A, R, and Q models. I've refueled aircraft as old as F-106's to F-117's. I have always been impressed with the performance of the KC-135's as was all of my crew members. The KC-135's had so many back up systems, we never, at an point, feared of losing a mission or an aircraft, for that matter. We always considered our aircraft to be the work horses of the fleet. Many times the KC-10's got the glory missions, but the KC-135's were always the ones that were waiting in the wings backing them up - because we were so dependable. I always considered 135's to be a graceful and reliable aircraft and when we went to air shows and put on static displays, I was proud to show people my tanker. She truely was the dependable work horse of the fleet.”

-Daniel C.

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Coming to a Theater Near You…the Boeing KC-7A7

We are very proud of our 80-year tanker heritage at Boeing. But it’s also very important to show you what the future of air refueling could be. While we have highly capable KC-767 tankers flying in operational squadrons in Japan today and in the future in Italy, it's time we provide a glimpse of our 'family of tankers' operating together.

That’s why we’re thrilled to show you our new video...


When global reach and mission success is critical, the combat-ready KC-7A7 is ready to deliver maximum capability at lowest cost...all on day one.


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Process Under Attack

While our opponent and their supporters have begun attacking the U.S. Air Force and its KC-X Tanker draft Request for Proposal, we have chosen to work within the process and continue asking questions some of which are posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

In the past, this competition to replace America’s critical fleet of air refueling tankers has been fought very publicly. Our preference is to allow the process to play out rather than work the requirements through the media. We will talk about the KC-X tanker competition when we’re ready and when it’s appropriate.

Ultimately, the men and women who selflessly serve our nation deserve the very best. We believe that is an American designed and built, combat-ready tanker with max capability at lowest cost. That tanker is the Boeing KC-7A7.

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Working Through the Process

Just wanted to comment on a Reuters story ("U.S. tanker aircraft rules spark concern in industry") that hit the wire last night. It describes "industry executives as starting to raise fundamental questions" about the U.S. Air Force's KC-X Tanker draft Request for Proposal released Sept. 25. If you've been following our blog, we've been very clear about how we’re approaching this. We continue to submit our draft RFP questions to the program office and see them answered at the Federal Business Opportunities website. Now, I don't know who the anonymous quotes were from, and it is not my concern to try and find out. (I can tell you it wasn't me.) I do know, however, that our competitors held a number of "on-background" briefings with reporters yesterday on the draft-RFP.

The bottom line is that the U.S. Air Force is running this tanker competition and both sides have to step forward and meet their mandatory requirements. We will continue to work through the process and look forward to offering a KC-7A7 combat-ready tanker featuring max capability at lowest cost for America.

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Boeing’s United States Tanker: Always Remember the Customer

A key part of building a good proposal and running a smart acquisition campaign is to always remember the customer. That's not very tough on KC-X. We see the U.S. Air Force working very hard to fly and maintain their current fleet of KC-135 air refueling tankers each day and realize they must have a new tanker as soon as possible. I just read a posting in Air Force Magazine's Daily Report eNewsletter ("Afghan Surge Prompts Mobility Records") describing the service's record breaking efforts in Afghanistan that tells it all. According to the story, USAF mobility forces have set records for cargo airdropped (4.1 million pounds in September). On the tanker side, approximately 80 million pounds of fuel was offloaded last month compared to 60 million pounds way back in February. For those of you who have served in the Air Mobility Command, this type of surge is not new but still very impressive. Whether it's the planners at the Tanker Airlift Control Center managing the global movement of aircraft or the aircrews and maintainers keeping it all on schedule despite some difficult challenges, it is very clear how important the U.S. Air Force is to keeping America safe and projecting our nation's reach. Read more at United States Tanker

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Just Ask The Question

One of the main reasons we created UnitedStatesTanker.com and this blog was to provide some insight into a very critical acquisition effort to replace America's air refueling tanker fleet.

For those who've been following that newly-started KC-X competition, you know the U.S. Air Force released their draft Request for Proposal (RFP) Sept. 25. This document goes into detail about the 373 requirements that must be met to participate in the competition. It also describes how proposals will be scored and even what happens in case of a tie. Our United States Tanker team has spent a great deal of time studying the draft RFP. Remember this is the main document we'll be using to decide which member of our KC-7A7 'family of tankers' to offer, or whether to offer both.

But we can't just make decisions on what's written in the document alone. Our main focus as we drive toward some key internal decisions is clarity. We must clearly understand how the service's requirements are defined and prioritized, and how our proposal will be evaluated.

So how do we get those answers? Simple...just ask.

Any company seeking to compete to build the replacement for the KC-135 Stratotanker fleet can submit questions to the KC-X Tanker Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, and have them answered online at the Federal Business Opportunities website.

We began submitting questions earlier this month and look forward to seeing the answers posted on the public website soon. While some of that Q&A may be administrative in nature, you might gain some interesting insight into how the process works by checking out the site. Feel free to tell us what you'd ask.

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Boeing Will Deliver

Hoping you'll read an interesting editorial ("This Time, Air Force Needs to Deliver") posted on the St. Petersburg Times website on the U.S. Air Force's KC-X Tanker competition.  It mentions nearby MacDill AFB (home to the active duty 6th Air Mobility Wing and its associate Air Force Reserve Command 927th Air Refueling Wing) and the KC-135R fleet assigned there.

Most of the editorial focuses on the new competition and how changes from past acquisition efforts will allow the Department of Defense and Air Force to make an "apples-to-apples comparison of the bids."

While most will be picking apart the Draft Request for Proposal and trying to forecast who may win next summer, the most compelling part of this piece was the reference to Air Force folks having to build their own spare parts since they were no longer available for the Eisenhower-era Stratotanker.

It's no secret that the KC-135 fleet needs to be replaced immediately. But as we enter into the KC-X competition and prepare our bid, we always remind our team how critically important the tanker fleet is to this nation, the urgency to win this contract and to start building new tankers.

The St. Petersburg Times suggests that the Air Force "procure a plane that meets its mission requirements for the right price." We firmly believe the Boeing Company and our Tanker Team will do just that by offering a combat-ready KC-7A7 tanker with max capability at lowest cost.

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Performance To Be Proud Of

Despite a very disappointing decision last week concerning the KC-10 Contractor Logistics Support contract, our Boeing team should be very proud of how they've supported the men and women of America's Air Force.

In the decade that we've been on contract, our more than 200-member team based in San Antonio has provided depot-level maintenance for the Air Force KC-10 fleet more than 750 times. Over 70 additional Boeing employees around the world support the KC-10 aircraft fleet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our performance has been exemplary:

  • The Boeing team never missed a delivery. We had a 100-percent on-time delivery rate returning those valuable KC-10s back to their Air Force operators.
  • While maintaining that high level of performance, our team reduced the depot cycle (time between work on each airplane) by approximately 30 percent over the last two years.
  • The Boeing team significantly exceeded every supply requirement and averaged a less than one-percent non-mission capable for supply rate over the last nine years. This means that more aircraft were available to the customer on a regular basis than was required per the contract.

No matter how this ends, we are very proud of our entire KC-10 CLS team and thankful for the opportunity to have contributed to this nation's defense.

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Meeting the Demand

As we begin the heated competition to replace our nation’s air tanker fleet, you’ll see plenty of stories describing each competitor’s offering. Some of those articles, like in the L.A. Times today, discuss issues surrounding KC-X and how various groups support or oppose them.

What tends to get overlooked is the truly heroic work being done by the men and women of America’s Air Force as they fly and maintain the KC-135 fleet.

Over the weekend, there was a really interesting story that ran in The Press-Enterprise, a paper based near Los Angeles. It went beyond just a basic description of the fleet and highlighted Lt. Col. David Bell, a third-generation KC-135 pilot and member of March Air Reserve Base’s 452nd Air Mobility Wing, Riverside, Calif.

Despite the many systems upgrades and stellar maintenance work to keep the Boeing Stratotanker flying for decades to come, aircraft commanders (like Lt. Col. Bell) and their aircrews deserve a new tanker as soon as possible.

That’s where our KC-7A7 ‘family of tankers’ makes great sense. Whether it’s an agile, flexible wide-body KC-767 tanker to replace the KC-135, or a true large, highly capable 777-based tanker, Boeing is ready to meet the demand.

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