The USAF is close to releasing a Request for Proposals for its oft-delayed KC-X program to acquire 179 air refuelling tankers to replace obsolete KC-135s in service.
The RFP, the third effort by the service in eight years to acquire the KC-X after two previous programs were dumped in controversy, is due to be released by the end of February according to a ‘presoliciation notice’ released earlier this month.
The presolicitation notice suggests that two of the three changes requested to the draft RFP issued last year by Northrop Grumman; that is that extra credit be given to a larger platform, and that the USAF adopt a cost plus strategy for the program instead of the proposed and riskier fixed price approach; will not be incorporated in the final document. The USAF has called for a tanker with a capability “at least that of the KC-135R” which all three potential solutions comfortably exceed, which suggests little consideration will be given to a larger platform in the competition.
On the basis of the notice, Northrop Grumman has repeated its threat to not bid on the program with its A330-based solution with which it has teamed with EADS North America. “Northrop Grumman feels that the draft RFP, as structured, fails the test of true competition and, without a responsive set of changes, is not an RFP to which Northrop Grumman can respond,” a company statement said.
Curiously, Boeing is supportive of the fixed price approach, even though the company incurred significant costs on a similar arrangement with Australia on the developmental Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft, and the fact that its 767 or 777 based solutions are less developed than the Northrop/EADS A330.