Air Capital Aviation Report: Special Edition for 3/09/08

Carl ChanceBy Carl Chance, Wings Over Kansas’ aviation & aerospace correspondent, former news consultant and producer for Wingspan Air & Space Channel.

Tanker Rivals, Head To Head:

Following years of discussion, and graphic presentations, the Air Force announced that Northrop Grumman/EADS were awarded the $40 billion contract for 179 new aerial tankers. Boeing was offering the KC-767, a derivative of the company’s 767 commercial jetliner. Northrop Grumman and EADS teamed to offer the KC-30, a variant of the A330 built by EADS subsidiary Airbus.

To see the "Contenders," please click on

Boeing: Uncertainty About Process Remains After Air Force Tanker Debrief:

The U.S. Air Force has completed a debriefing for the Boeing Company during which acquisition official sought to explain why they selected a team of Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) for a contract to replace aerial refueling tankers.

"We spent several hours with Air Force leaders, listening and probing, all in a effort to better understand the reasoning behind their decisions," said Mark McGraw, Boeing vice president and program manager for theKC-767 tanker. "While we are grateful for the timely debriefing, we left the room with significant concerns about the process in several areas, including program requirements related to capabilities, cost and risk; evaluation of the bids and the ultimate decision. What is clear now is that reports claiming that the Airbus offering won by a wide margin could not be more inaccurate," said McGraw.

Boeing officials said that they would take the next few days to evaluate the data presented and will give serious consideration to filing a protest.

"Our plan now is to work through the weekend to come to a decision on our course of action early next week," said McGraw. "It will be a very rigorous and deliberative process to ensure we’re balancing the needs of the warfighter with our desire to be treated fairly. For decades Boeing has been recognized as a defense company that never takes lightly protests of our customers’ decisions."

Bipartisan Group of Senators Blast Tanker Deal:

U.S. Senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts of Kansas, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington state condemned the decision by the United States Air Force to award a $40 billion contract for air-refueling tankers to European manufacturer EADS.

"I’m mad. We all came out of our meeting with the Air Force March 4th with more questions than answers, and the answers we got lead to more questions," said Senator Brownback. "The Air Force needs to provide many additional details about the criteria used to reach this decision. I am calling on the Air Force and the Secretary of Defense to more fully explain how such a critical defense contract could be awarded to a French company and how much the European bid was subsidized by foreign governments. We should not be beholden to the French for parts and maintenance for the defense of our nation and we should not require our military personnel to learn to speak French to be able to operate our refueling tankers. We will fight against this at every turn and I will fight this in the appropriations process."

"It will take Airbus longer to start up an assembly line than Boeing. And it will take them longer to produce a viable plane. And when they finally do, that plane will be just plain too big," said Senator Roberts. "I am deeply troubled by this announcement. I expect to see very detailed documents from the Air Force. I also expect them to brief both competitors quickly because the long and short of it is, if this decision holds, it will be at the cost of American jobs and American dollars, if not our national security." 

"This decision was devastating news for Boeing, for American workers, and for America’s men and women in uniform," said Senator Murray. "I cant imagine why, when our economy is hurting, our government would decide to outsource a key piece of our national and economic security to France to help create a European economic stimulus package at the expense of U.S. workers. I also think it’s a huge mistake to put a contract that involves military security into the hands of a foreign government. I have a lot of tough questions I want answers to soon because there seems to be a real disconnect here."

"We were all stunned and extremely disappointed by the Air Force’s decision to award its tanker bid to Airbus/Northrop Grumman. What I think stunned us the most was the Air Force’s rationale," said Senator Cantwell. "The U.S. Air Force currently uses more fuel than any other military branch. By not awarding this contract to Boeing, the Air Force is taking a major step backwards. The Boeing KC-767 burns 24 percent less fuel and would have saved taxpayers approximately $10 Billion over the life of the tanker. The Air Force has a lot of explaining to do on why they have made this choice."

Additional Information:

For more insight and resources, please log on to the following Northrop Grumman website URL addresses:

Special Editor 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.

Note: I’ll have more news and items of interest as they develop to be published in my next "Air Capital Aviation Report." Please keep logging on to for weekly aviation and aerospace updates on stories, features, history, news, education and more.