Recriminations in Kansas for Boeing

As can be expected with Boeing’s (BA) decision to close their Wichita, KS facility and move work to Washington and Texas the politicians who represent the state are not happy. Many Congressman and Senators who provided support to Boeing to win the KC-46A contract from the U.S. Air Force feel betrayed.

They cite the fact that Boeing executives basically promised the work would be done in Kansas if the contract was one creating thousands of jobs in that state.

The Mayor of Wichita, Carl Brewer, feels the same way. He claims Boeing has betrayed the city by their decision. Wichita has invested millions of the taxpayers money in the plant which has been open since the 1930’s and built bombers during World War II and the Cold War. Now in about 24 months it will stop work and the jobs will be eliminated or moved.

The decision by Boeing based the company claims on cost considerations alone highlight what may happen across the U.S. as the defense budget shrinks and programs are cut or eliminated. Similar scenes have happened before in the 70’s and 90’s as military spending has been reduced. Wichita may be the first of many cities this time around.

That, of course, does not make those who supported Boeing feel better but now they may join the Florida and Alabama representatives who tried to aid Northrop Grumman (NOC) and EADS North America, part of EADS (EADS:P) who worked for those companies to win the KC-X contract. The goal for them of course was investment and jobs in a time when manufacturing ones are hard to find.

As government spending is cut back there will be many other politicians crying foul.

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U.S. Air Force and Boeing Complete KC-46A IBR

One of the first major steps with the execution of a new contract by the Defense Department is the Integrated Baseline Review (IBR). This is a meeting between the contractor and the Government acquisition community to review the contract and establish cost and schedule parameters. The data will be part of the Earned Value Management System (EVMS) used to measure the contract, and Boeing’s, performance and how well it is remaining on cost and schedule.

The IBR for this contract was completed in late August. According to Boeing the IBR went well and the program is grounded for success. The KC-46A will next have its design reviews and plans to deliver the first aircraft in 78 months. The flight of the first test aircraft will be in 2015.

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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.

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Reports that KC-46 Contract Already Showing Cost Growth

Bloomberg is reporting that the U.S. Air Force has been briefing Congress in preparation for the FY12 budget that the KC-46 tanker contract with Boeing (BA) is already showing growth beyond the initial award price. The first part of the program is for development and testing as well as the delivery of the first 18 aircraft.

The value awarded was $4.9 billion but the indications are that it will be at least $300 million more. The way the contract is structured Boeing will have to cover that cost increase themselves. Boeing, though, seems confident that when all is complete the contract will be executed for close to the $3.9 billion and will not cost the company.

Boeing was awarded the contract in February for the new tanker program. The Air Force plans this as the first phase of a new program that could buy several hundred new tankers to replace the KC-135 and KC-10 fleet currently supporting operations. Boeing will ultimately build over 150 of the KC-46 tanker based on their commercial 767 airliner design. Boeing has also sold 767 based tankers to Italy and Japan with Italy just taking possession of their first aircraft.

The current estimate though of about a six percent cost increase is not a good sign for a program just starting which is going to be held to strict cost standards. One of the major reasons that Boeing won was their much lower price then their competition from Europen aerospace giant EADS (EADS:P) U.S. subsidiary, EADS North America. Their proposal based on the KC-30 tanker ordered by Australia and the U.A.E. was more expensive but was a larger aircraft that could carry more fuel. Further cost growth will only bring more scrutiny and criticism from Congress.

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.

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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.

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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.

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EADS Claims Able to Lower Price on Offer This Time Around

With the submission of their second proposal for the KC-X aerial tanker program EADS (EADS:P) stated that due to production increases they were able to lower the price on their KC-30 tanker aircraft. Chairman of EADS North America, Ralph Crosby, said by about six percent.

EADS and Boeing (BA) are trying for a second time to win the new tanker for the U.S. Air Force that will replace the aging KC-135R aircraft. In 2008 EADS which was teamed with Northrop Grumman (NOC) won the last contest which was overturned on protest by Boeing. The two companies submitted their final proposals last week.

Boeing has not provided such details but has previously stated that their smaller KC-767 aircraft has better fuel efficiency and maintenance costs that will save the Air Force money over the long run.

In recent testimony the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, indicated that the award announcement will be made in a few weeks following up on the Air Force’s budget document which indicated prior to April 1st.

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Boeing Submits Final NewGen Tanker Proposal to US Air Force — Press Release

Boeing Submits Final NewGen Tanker Proposal to US Air Force

ST. LOUIS, Feb. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) today submitted its final proposal for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-X tanker competition. The proposal offers a fleet of Boeing NewGen Tankers – 767-based, multi-mission aircraft that deliver superior capabilities to U.S. warfighters and burn 24 percent less fuel than the competing European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) Company’s tanker. If selected, the Boeing tanker will save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars in fuel costs over the next 40 years and support 50,000 American jobs with more than 800 suppliers in more than 40 states.

“This decision is critical to America’s national security and its manufacturing base,” said Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney. “Our best-of-Boeing team has offered the most capable and fuel-efficient tanker that will enable the U.S. Air Force to continue serving as the world’s finest air refueling provider without breaking future defense budgets.”

“Our challenge is to replace the KC-135, one of the most valuable aircraft fleets in aviation history, and we responded to the U.S. Air Force’s requirements by proposing the best multi-mission airplane built by the most experienced people – the NewGen Tanker,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “We have an integrated team that has spent the entire competition focusing on our customer and preparing to execute immediately after the contract is awarded. Boeing is ready to build America’s next tanker.”

“Our NewGen Tankers will be built using a proven low-risk, in-line manufacturing approach similar to the highly successful 737-based Navy P-8A, by an already trained and highly experienced U.S. work force at existing Boeing facilities that have delivered more than 2,000 tankers and 1,000 commercial 767s,” said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Boeing has been designing, building, modifying and supporting tankers for decades. These include the KC-135 fleet, the KC-10 fleet, and four KC-767Js delivered to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. The Italian Air Force formally accepted its first KC-767 tanker in December and will receive three more as part of its current contract. In addition to being ready now, the Boeing NewGen Tanker will continue to deliver capability and value to both warfighters and U.S. taxpayers for decades to come. The NewGen Tanker:

* Saves taxpayers up to $36 billion in life-cycle costs compared with the competitor’s aircraft – a difference that could pay for an additional fleet of 179 tankers
* Features a flight control design philosophy that places aircrews in command of the entire flight envelope rather than allowing computer software to limit combat maneuverability
* Provides Air Force pilots with an advanced digital flight deck featuring Boeing 787 Dreamliner electronic displays
* Includes proven air refueling technology and a modernized NewGen KC-10 boom with an expanded refueling envelope capability, increased fuel offload rate and fly-by-wire control system – all from the company that invented the air refueling boom and has produced the world’s most capable and reliable tankers
* Delivers significantly more fuel, cargo, passengers and patients than the current KC-135 tanker in a widebody airplane with a narrowbody footprint that affords the Air Force invaluable flexibility for a variety of operations.

Boeing’s final proposal is the culmination of a process that began when the company started studying tanker requirements after the release of the Air Force’s draft Request for Proposal (RFP) in September 2009, followed by a final RFP in February 2010. Boeing responded to the final RFP by submitting an 8,000-page proposal on July 9, 2010. A contractor will be selected early this year to replace 179 of the 400 Eisenhower-era KC-135 aircraft currently in the Air Force fleet.

More information on Boeing’s NewGen Tanker, including video clips and an interactive tour of the aircraft, is available at www.UnitedStatesTanker.com. For more information on joining the company’s efforts, visit www.RealAmericanTankers.com.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security (www.boeing.com/bds) is one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $32 billion business with 66,000 employees worldwide. Follow us on Twitter: @BoeingDefense.

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Reports Final Proposals Due Next Week for KC-X

Both Boeing (BA) and EADS NA (EADS:P) have met with the U.S. Air Force reportedly to discuss final changes to the KC-X RFP. The companies have until 11 February to submit their final revisions to their proposed solutions to the new aerial tanking requirement.

Boeing has said that they will update their proposal although EADS NA has said they may not. Swirling around all of this final burst of activity is the concerns by some in Congress, the media and at the bidders about the accidental release of information by the U.S. Air Force to each team as well as the two World Trade Organizations (WTO) rulings on both companies receiving illegal subsidies.

Some Boeing supporters in Congress are now saying that the data release gives EADS an advantage and that there should be deeper investigations. The Air Force “reassigned” two personnel as punishment and Congress did have hearings last week about the matter. Washington state, Illinois and Kansas legislators all from states that stand to gain work if Boeing wins sent a letter to the DOD IG asking them to look to see if the data released skewed the contest in EADS’ favor.

All of these conditions make it seem inevitable that there will be a protest to the contract award no matter who wins it. There will also be political pressure from supporters of both companies to review the contract and make sure that there favored winner was not treated unfairly.

All this adds up to further delays in replacing the KC-135 systems made during the Cold War. Once again this problem has been created by the disappearance from the U.S. industrial base of multiple suppliers of large aircraft. Currently only Boeing and EADS make aircraft acceptable to the Air Force to meet this requirement. If there is to be even a modicum of competition the two have to be involved which leads us to the current ugly situation of charges and counter charges of favoritism, jingoism and bias.

This will probably be the biggest contract awarded for the next decade by the Defense Department and is critical to both companies maintaining a foothold in the large military aircraft business worldwide which is leading us to the current situation which does not seem like it will end well.

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EADS Bids A330MRTT for Indian Contract

The Indian military as part of its ongoing efforts to upgrade the overall technology of their equipment has tendered a contract for new aerial tankers. Currently they use a version of the Russian Ilyushin (IL)-78 tanker developed several years ago and in service with the Russian military. Reportedly Airbus, and EADS (EADS:P) company, and Ilyushin will submit bids for this contract.

Last year Airbus had submitted a proposal to sell the A330MRTT tanker to India but the contract award was canceled by the Finance Ministry as being too expensive. This contest is a result of that decision.

The A330MRTT is undergoing certification testing for Australia as well as being built for the United Kingdom and the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia. It is also going to be EADS North America’s submission for the KC-X tanker contract for the U.S. Air Force.

Of note the existing IL-78 tankers have been supporting the flight demonstrations for India’s MMRCA new fighter contract. This means they have required the contestants to be modified to work with the IL-78. Competitors include the F/A-18, Rafael, SAAB Gripen, MiG and Eurofighter. This demonstrates that the IL-78 may be able to fuel a fleet of modern Western aircraft.

If Airbus does win the Indian competition it is only for a few aircraft but it will aid them in getting their production processes in place to get ready for the much larger KC-X contract. The more of the model of the aircraft flying as well will help them with the overall cost of the aircraft and program. Just as the more 767 tankers Boeing (BA) sells to other countries the better for them.

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