Fuel Burn Costs May Have Tipped KC-X Scales in Boeing’s Favor

While some may wonder why Boeing with its NewGen Tanker offering based off a smaller, older 767 design beat out EADS Airbus A330-based KC-45 to win the KC-X contract yesterday, it’s likely a matter of fuel efficiency and construction costs associated with housing the new jets.

From DoDBuzz:

The difference between the two bids may have come down the difference in fuel consumption, speculated Loren Thompson, defense consultant and analyst at the Lexington Institute. “The Airbus plane burns over one ton more of fuel per flight hour than the Boeing plane. Multiply that by 40 years and that’s a lot of money,” Thompson said. Boeing has argued for some time that its fuel consumption rate would save taxpayers “tens of billions” of dollars over the life of the program.

There’s also the question of military construction. Remember, both planes was also evaluated by how much cash the Air Force would have to spend to upgrade infrastructure at bases that currently house KC-135s to accommodate the larger Boeing and EADS jets. While the 767 is big, the A330 is a lot bigger. This might mean that modifications to things like ramps and hangars may cost more to accommodate the EADS jet. We won’t know for sure on this until the Pentagon tells us.

Another factor may be the number of tails the Air Force can deploy to crowded bases around the world. Naturally, you can fit more of the smaller 767s on a ramp than the A330. Again, we’ll see if this played a role in the decision to go with the Boeing plane.

  • guest

    Another critical factor that pushed the scale firmly in Boeing’s favor is Chicago.
    Their corporate home and Obama’s political home.

    • blight

      The hub of Boeings operations is still Washington state.

  • Or could it be possible that saving fuel saves money? Why have to build new hangers anyway if you have an option that fits in the original footprint.

  • jamesb101

    Give me braek….Will Ya?

    Look at all the comments in the first post on this…..

    Wrong plane…
    But it’s a good political call….

  • jamesb101

    And to picture above is a drawing cause the plane ain’t flying yet…..

  • It’s kind of funny how we want to save fuel, but yet we’re building tankers that keep pumping fuel…

  • coolhand77

    Nothing wrong with using a 30 year old design that burns less fuel. 30 years of flight time with the base model means they SHOULD have the bugs worked out. Italian and Japanese tanker versions means that it should almost be a COTS piece of hardware, and there will be plenty of spare parts.
    Plus, manufacturing jobs in the US…where was Airbus going to build their planes?

  • ziv

    Just how different is the KC-46A than the already flying Italian KC-767A and the Japanese KC-767J? It looks like all the hard work went into getting the Italian jets flying, the Japanese order appears to have happened a good deal more smoothly. Hopefully that bodes well for a smooth delivery of the KC-46A.

  • LEP1

    You do not need a PhD in aerospace engineering to figure out that a BIGGER and thus HEAVIER aircraft (Airbus A330-MRTT) will burn more fuel than a smaller and thus lighter aircraft (B767 – KC-767). The question is, given that the A330-MRTT also has a greater range than the B767 – KC-767, whether such a fuel burn rate is justified for each mile flown and ton of fuel/cargo carried. If the B767 – KC-767 defeats the EADS product for typical USAF refueling-cargo mission profiles of the then the case is over and the correct choice was made. However, if the USAF needs MORE B767-KC-767 FLIGHTS and FLIGHT HOURS to accomplish long-range refueling – cargo missions than what the A330-MRTT can do then I and many other U.S. taxpayers got a problem because the USAF will have a problem.

    • praetorian

      If the airforce needs the longer range just use the bigger KC-10 in those situations. We have over 50 KC-10’s

      • blight

        Alternatively, they may have felt the capability gap between the KC-10 and the A330 made the buy redundant? I’d have to go look some stuff up…

  • LEP1

    The USAF air base modifications are a secondary factor in the whole cost-benefit analysis since these are going to be one-time costs that can be amortized over a very long period of time, e.g., 35+ years. Such costs would have been a serious consideration if the aerial refueling tankers were to be housed in hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) as sometimes happens with fighter aircraft. I can see the need, the possibility, and the cost of constructing such HAS facilities in USAF air bases in Guam and South Korea for aerial refueling aircraft. However, ordinary hangars are used for such aircraft in the continental U.S. and Hawai.

    • nagyja@gmail.com

      The amortized costs are at the heart of the lifetime cost of these aircraft and the decision. Boeing’s plane is a cheaper and more cost effective over its life. It all came down to if the 330’s luxury items out weighed their added cost relative to Boeing’s offering.

  • anon

    forget all those ridiculously over-budget contracts, we’re saving money on fuel!

  • anon1

    Both designs meet the requirements. None offer less capability than KC-135. Buy the cheaper one to operate.

    Took them a decade to figure it out. Blame the politicians.

  • eurofaircompetition

    “Fuel Burn Costs May Have Tipped KC-X Scales in Boeing’s Favor

    Read more: http://live-defensetech.sites.thewpvalet.com/2011/02/25/fuel-burn-costs
    Defense.org” according to the lobbyists…. yeah sure

    Yes, I’m a European, and Dutch to be exactly… this is just a load off bullsh*t, just as the F35 costs less than $100M per aircraft. We should cancel our involvement in the Joint Strike Fighter (while we still can, as we are in the process to buy a single test aircraft) and choose a European fighter (Rafale, Eurofighter or Gripen) instead…

    If the US (senators or defense industry) can’t deal with fair competition, why should we?

  • jamesb101

    I’ll bet this is the biggest comments issue in a long time here!

    • blight

      Nope. I’ve seen a few punch over a hundred, and not that long ago.

  • jamesb101

    Go people!

    I just want to see what the end price for this will be ……

    $35 Billion…..

  • Oblat

    There is no mystery why Boeing won with an obsolete design and inefficient production line, they combined graft with a plan to raise the price through change orders.

    “It’s the happiest day in my professional life, if you want to know the truth. To finally win this thing, after 10 years of struggle. . . . How sweet it is.”

    “This was a real victory of our congressional delegation,” “This is, I think, our greatest victory in the history of the state. In particular, congressional allies successfully pushed the Pentagon to change its evaluation of life-cycle costs from 25 years to 40 years, greatly boosting the smaller Boeing tanker’s fuel savings, Dicks said.

    – U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks.

    Dicks has replaced Murtha as the new King of Pork on the defense committee.

    • Guest

      You’re right, it had to get political to remove the unfair handicaps given to the A330.

  • Stan

    Less fuel burn per unit of useable payload or just less fuel burn? If you need 4 767s to do what 3 A330s could accomplish that doesn’t amount to improved fuel burn, unless of course it is in the end less fuel/payload.

  • Mitch S.

    Fuel burn, aircraft size vs KC10, runway length are all interesting points but how did they play out in the previous assessment which Airbus won?
    (I admit I don’t have time to do the homework on this question).

  • Curt

    I am not seeing why this is such a surprise. The USAF said they wanted a medium tanker, EADS said the RFP favored a medium tanker, and the medium tanker won. What’s so surprising about that.

  • Trex

    Man up, its about time we build something in America. Boeing has always built high quality, long life aircraft that aircrews loved. It will be a great airframe for great USAF.

  • Pete

    Build American, buy American! Slow down the job & money hemorhage to companies outside the USA, especially when we can build it better ourselves (in this case better means fuel economy & product usability).

  • jamesb101



    • Guest

      No… The first few planes (if the A330 was selected) were flying in from Toulouse for modification and final assembly… And there was no numbers listed as to the number of A330’s that would fly into Mobile for this modification… 10? 20? 50? 179?

  • jamesb101

    ok….if you are going to make 170 planes we’re gonna argue of the first few planes that woulkd have been here in a year or two as apposed to boeing that won’t be here for who know how long?

  • Ralph

    Have ANY of the European-bashers realized that the BIGGEST aerospace customer in the U.S. is EADS (Airbus mother company), at the tune of 10 BILLION $/year?

    And has any of the “buy American” proponents realized that Boeing buys / manufactures a lot of their components for planes outside the States (e.g, in Japan) and that (big gasp!) Airbus manufactures parts for Boeing?

    Sorry, fellas, but the world is not black-and-white…