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The Tanker Tango

KC-X Tanker Competition Back On

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Someday this tanker competition is going to end. But not today. Taking advantage of the Pentagon’s generous extension to allow the company to put together a bid, EADS threw its KC-45 aircraft, the U.S. military version of the A330 Tanker used by a number of allies, into the KC-X Tanker competition.

“Our KC-45 is the only real, flying, low-risk solution that today meets the demanding Air Force air refueling requirements and is actually in production now. That fact is critical because our warfighters deserve a true best value solution,” EADS North America Chairman said in a press release today. The company is pursuing a solo bid.

“Our aircraft has demonstrated its unparalleled capability by refueling a variety of military aircraft utilizing both boom and hose and drogue systems, as well as by operating in the receiving position. That’s a statement our competition can’t make,” said Crosby. He told reporters at a press conference today that EADS has every chance of winning.


EADS Tanker, Not Dead Yet

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Over at DOD Buzz, my colleague Colin Clark reports that EADS has confirmed that it is looking at a possible independent bid for the KC-X tanker competition. A company press release cautions that the tanker RFP still favors “a smaller, less capable aircraft” and the larger EADS offering “may not be fully valued.” But EADS’ public statement does leave options open:

“Yesterday the US Department of Defense (DoD) indicated it would welcome a proposal from EADS North America as prime contractor for the KC-X tanker competition. This is a significant development. EADS is assessing this new situation to determine if the company can feasibly submit a responsive proposal to the Department’s request for proposal (RFP).”

– Greg

Tanker Brief

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

We got our hands on the Power Point slides from today’s Tanker RFP brief from Deputy SecDef William Lynn, chief weapons buyer Ashton Carter and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.

Tanker RFP Final Power Point

– Greg

Big Tanker Day

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

So Air Force KC-X tanker news is coming pretty fast and furious today. The final request for proposal (RFP) is due out sometime this afternoon; lawmakers are reportedly being briefed on contract details this morning. This is a big one, a $35 billion order for 179 new tankers.

Amy Butler over at Ares, AvWeeks’s blog, reports that Northrop Grumman/EADS officials told lawmakers they predict a 96 to 98 percent chance that they won’t even bid on the RFP because they think it’s so stacked in favor of Boeing. They don’t think its worth the cost and effort to put together a proposal. Northrop/EADS has the larger tanker based on the Airbus A330 while Boeing’s offering is based on the smaller 767 airframe. Apparently size doesn’t matter on this one.

Deputy SecDef William Lynn, chief Pentagon weapons buyer Ashton Carter and Air Force chief Gen. Norton Schwartz will brief reporters at 4 p.m. this afternoon on the RFP. We’ll bring you updates as they come in.

– Greg

Dicks Best Bet to Follow Murtha as C-HAC-D

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our boy Colin Clark at DoD Buzz gets the gouge…

Rep. Norm Dicks, Boeing supporter extraordinaire, is the “closest thing to a sure thing you get in Washington” to ascend to chairmanship of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, says defense sage and consultant Loren Thompson.

I asked Thompson, who was desperately seeking salt to battle the next winter storm, if Dicks’ ascension would mean that Boeing would have undue influence on the decisions of the House spending body. “They say that becoming chairman has an effect on the way one behaves I guess we are going to see if that’s true,” Thompson said. He pointed out that Dicks comes “from a very different regional political cultural and a very different generation,” obviously referring to Murtha’s time as a Marine in Vietnam and the pretty conservative rural district from which he came in Pennsylvania.

Also, Dicks has defense contractors — Boeing preeminent among them, but not alone — in his district so if he delivers a robust defense budget the companies in his district will almost certainly benefit. Murtha headed the defense spending subcommittee but did not have major defense contractors in his district. That, Thompson said, may have contributed to Murtha’s focus on delivering defense earmarks.

The biggest programmatic winner from Dicks’ donning of the defense cardinal’s mantle will be Boeing’s tanker. Murtha pushed for a dual buy from Northrop Grumman and from Boeing. He wanted to push the buy to 26 from the planned 15 planes. Dicks has absolutely no incentive to push for a dual buy. And Northrop Grumman’s executives have pretty much concluded that they cannot win under the terms of the draft RFP.

[We’ll see if Dicks can rise above his parochial interests as chairman and do what’s best for the entire committee and the nation at large. How he handles the tanker question will surely be a good barometer.]

– Christian

FLASH: NO Tanker RFP Til Next Admin

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008


Defense Secretary Robert Gates, clearly worried that the atmosphere is so poisoned by the battle between Boeing and Northrop and tainted by the poor performance of the Air Force, has decided to punt and leave any tanker RFP to the next administration.

Rather than hand the next Administration an incomplete and possibly contested process, Secretary Gates decided that the best course of action is to provide the next Administration with full flexibility regarding the requirements, evaluation criteria and the appropriate allocation of defense budget to this mission, the Pentagon release said this morning..

The release quoted Gates, saying that It is my judgment that in the time remaining to us, we can no longer complete a competition that would be viewed as fair and objective in this highly charged environment. The resulting cooling off period will allow the next Administration to review objectively the military requirements and craft a new acquisition strategy for the KC-X.

The first congressional reaction was positive, from one of the Capitols most important money men. I believe that Secretary Gates made the right decision in providing the next Administration with the opportunity to review the requirements and proceed with a new solicitation. Our committee advised the Defense Department to ensure that there was enough time for legitimate competition. This decision will allow for that, Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.) said in a statement. He signalled pretty clearly that the House Appropriations defense subcommittee would come up with whatever money might be needed to keep the tankers flying. Now our job will be to work with the Department to make certain that our current tankers, that are over 40 years old, will be rehabilitated to ensure we have tankers available for world-wide Air Force missions, he added.

Read the rest of this story and more updates from DoD Buzz.

– Colin

Pentagon Issues Gag Order on Tanker Talk

Monday, August 11th, 2008


For those who wonder just how worried the Pentagon is about stumbling into or somehow sparking a second protest in the tanker wars, heres a baseline.

John Young, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, issued a July 31 memo requiring that all communications outside of the Defense Department be approved by the Pentagons general counsels office and by Shad Assay, director of defense procurement, acquisition policy and strategic sourcing.

This means that anyone who wants to talk to the press or to industry must first get Air Force clearance and then get OSD clearance, including the departments top lawyers. The source who provided the memo described it as a gag order. That may be a little strong but is conveys pretty clearly just how concerned the Pentagons senior leadership is with shaping and controlling the messages it sends as it conducts the tanker rebid. In effect, this is pretty close to a gag order given that no lawyer is likely to approve any statement to anyone unless its either utterly innocuous or there is very good reason for the department to say something. After all, $35 billion is a fair amount of change and the departments handling of the tanker deal has been remarkably inept over the years.

[Editor: Loren Thompson must be sobbing right now…]

– Colin Clark


Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Click HERE for the new, amended RFP for the KC-X tanker.

(Gouge: CC)

– Christian

More Tanker News About to Pop

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008


We’re covering the Pentagon presser today at 3pm on the new tanker RFP. Here’s a bit of what Colin has reported over at DoD Buzz.

A few items of interest, for perspective. former Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne and I spoke recently about the options the Pentagon has. They are very few if John Young, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, stuck with what he said he would stick with. First, the requirements would not change. So the Northrop Grumman team would seem to come out ahead on this score since all the OSD and Air Force personnel who have talked about this agree that Northrop does the best job overall of meeting or exceeding the requirements..

Second, Wynne agreed that since Young made clear a dual buy would just be too expensive that also tips things in Northrops favor. Young said several times after the GAO ruling that buying tankers from both companies would add substantial costs, costs the Pentagon was not willing to shoulder.

Still, Wynne professed to like the idea of a dual buy. But I think thats because he believes Boeing couldnt get enough planes in the air and certified quickly enough and believes it would, in the long run, just strengthen Northrops position.

Finally, while it may not be factual, the swagger of senior EADS personnel before and during the Farnborough Air Show was palpable. They have little doubt they will not lose to Boeing, amended RFP or not. Boeing personnel, on the other hand, were clearly on the defensive during Farnborough. More after the briefing.

We did just receive a note from the office of Rep. Norm Dicks who’s already crying foul about the new RFP…

Note that there is an obvious change inserted into the System Requirements Document in the revised tanker RFP that clearly favors the larger aircraft even though it is not necessarily connected to any real-world use of tanker. The original RFP said no extra credit beyond threshold requirement, which both planes had met and exceeded in the first competition. New RFP says there is value in exceeding. Is this a competition for a KC-10 replacement or a KC-135 replacement?

So, the Air Force shouldn’t get what it wants, right Mr. Dicks? Seems to me if they’re asking for more fuel capability then they should be able to buy the tanker that gives it to them. Boeing asked for this rebid, they’ve gotten it, and now its backers are already complaining that it’s unfair?

Is there anyone out there that believes this will be a “fair” process anymore?

Stay tuned here, to DoD Buzz and to Military​.com for further updates.

– Christian

Congress: Consider Tanker Industrial Base

Monday, August 4th, 2008

This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

House defense appropriators have directed the U.S. Air Force to consider “industrial base concerns” in its next evaluation of a replacement air refueling tanker.

The directive was contained in the $487.7 billion fiscal 2009 defense appropriations bill approved July 30 by the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee.

Fully funds tanker program

The measure, which is not expected to make it to the House floor before the summer recess that begins Aug. 4, is $4 billion below President Bush’s budget request and $28.4 billion above the fiscal 2008 defense spending measure enacted.

The bill, which must clear the full Appropriations Committee before consideration by the full House, fully funds the tanker program at $893 million. Lawmakers also directed USAF to comply with findings by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which sustained Boeing’s protest of the decision to award a $35 billion contract to a team headed by Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent EADS.

Boeing supporters and Buy America advocates in Congress complained that the Air Force failed to take U.S. industrial base issues into consideration when it picked the Northrop Grumman-EADS offering. Air Force officials insisted the law did not require them to do so.

Redistributes F-35 funds