The Tanker Deal: Naming the Real Culprit!

The Tanker Deal: Naming the Real Culprit!
By Walter J. Boyne, Author, Historian
Contributing Correspondent and History Author to Wings Over Kansas

First let me say that I am a chauvinist through and through when it comes to the United States, which allows itself to be kicked around by virtually anyone who wishes too, and then apologizes for it. And second, let me say that I would prefer all U.S. military aircraft, trainers, transports, tankers, to be manufactured in total by U.S. Companies.

Third, let me tell you what the problem really is. It is not the United States Air Force, it is not Boeing, nor is it Northrop-Grumman/EADS. It is the United States Congress which has ignored the critical problem of tanker replacement for twenty years in the most indolent, criminal fashion that 535 overpaid people could do. Now the Congress is up in arms for purely political reasons, the members have demonstrated for two decades that they don’t give a damn about the capacity of our tankers, nor the lives of the brave young crews that fly equipment flown by their grandfathers. But once there is a headline in prospect, once there is a chance for some cheap political shots, they line up like 535 Joan Rivers at the Oscars, ready to ask stupid questions in sizzling sound-bites furnished by their bright young staffers.

Courtesy Boeing Photo

Photo courtesy The Boeing Company

Congress, get off your collective fat duffs, stop worrying about your immense pensions and stupefying moneymaking and start defending America. If we lose this war on terror, you will be the first to go, and it won’t be pleasant for you, either.

Having blown my cork, let us look at the problem as presented. Boeing damaged itself with the Darleen Druyan scandal, and this certainly played a role in the ultimate decision. Boeing didn’t just have to win a competition; it had to win in so significant fashion that no one would remember the past difficulties. Northrop Grumman did exactly what it should do: take a well-proven aircraft, develop the tanker equipment for it and place it in competition. Boeing did the same, but it was dancing to a different tune which led it to conclude that using the 767 as a tanker baseline was somehow better than using a 777. Why it did this, I don’t know. I didn’t read the RFPs and the reports circulating now are confusing.

Boeing is a brilliant company. It undoubtedly based its proposal on what it thought would be the best answer to the client’s RFP. While the Boeing and the Airbus entries were not apples and oranges, there are immediate and obvious differences in them that raise the question: how could the firms interpret the requirements in such a different manner? There are suggestions that somehow, something was changed along the way, perhaps even the actual preferred choice. Suggestions like these arise after every competition decision, but the situation here is so strange that they have greater credibility.

So here is my solution, for what it is worth: have Congress realize that despite globalization, we need to make our weapons of war here in the United States. We do not want mercenary equipment anymore than we want a mercenary military. Award the contract to Boeing, for a tankerized 777 if necessary, but then task Northrop Grumman to come up with an advanced tanker to follow the fleet. We have KC-135s and KC-10s now; we need two new tankers for the future, to avoid a situation where a mandatory grounding deprives us of tanker capability. Northrop Grumman could team with Lockheed Martin if necessary to produce an advanced, clean sheet of paper tanker, and we would have the best of all worlds: redundancy, advanced capabilities, and best of all, American products, built here with American know-how and American labor.

Most important, this might start the process of arming the United States in a manner worthy of a great nation, which means providing everything needed to our military serving in the field, and includes increasing the size of our armed forces so that we don’t have less than .0005 percent of the nation defending the .9995 percent of Americans at the mall.

Photo by Adrian Pingstone

The views expressed herein are the views of the author, not necessarily the views of Wings Over Kansas or Chance Communications, Inc.

Editor Special Statement:

Due to the controversial nature of the decision on the Air Force Tanker Award, it is recommended that the interested reader continue to research additional information to help formulate a more informed knowledge base on the subject. The story is far from being complete and will be ongoing until all parties involved are satisfied with the outcome.