EADS North America has announced its intention to bid for the USAF’s KC-X tanker replacement program as the prime contractor with its A330 MRTT based KC-45, although it stresses that it hasn’t given up looking for US partners for its bid.
Previously partnered with Northrop Grumman and more recently reported to have unsuccessfully explored a tie up with L-3, EADS NA was granted a 60 day extension by the USAF to July 9 to submit a proposal for the competition.
“We have notified the DoD we are going to bid,” EADS North America CEO, Sean O’Keefe said at a April 20 media conference. “We have the world’s best tanker. We have won five different times against the KC-767. The KC-45 is flying, it exists. This means substantially less risk. The DoD should not be forced through sole source to buy an aircraft that exists only on paper.”
Boeing has proposed the KC-767 New Generation (NG) tanker, a development of the 767-200 with 787 based cockpit avionics, a new boom, and winglets. After a protracted development running nearly two years late, the RAAF will take delivery of its first of five KC-30A MRTTs, on which the KC-45 is based, later this year, while 23 other A330 MRTTs have been ordered by the UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
“This tanker competition is all about the warfighter and the aircraft that most successfully meets their requirements,” O’Keefe added. “The KC-45 offers what the Air Force needs today: a modern military tanker that is in production now with deliveries beginning this year. Not only does the KC-45 offer the best value and a huge capability advantage over the competition, it also will support tens of thousands of jobs across America by expanding our nation’s industrial aerospace capacity.” As part of its bid, EADS has recommitted to building the bulk of the 179 new tankers at a new facility in Mobile, Alabama alongside commercial A330F freighters as well.
Boeing responded to EADS’s announcement with a statement of its own. “From the outset, Boeing has been 100 per cent focused on responding to the needs of our Air Force customer and preparing a competitive proposal. Only Boeing can produce a tanker that will meet the Air Force’s 372 requirements and promise delivery of a combat-ready, safe and survivable tanker that is the most capable for the warfighter, the lowest cost for the taxpayer, and backed by Boeing’s proven US work force. We are confident in the superior value and capabilities of our NewGen Tanker and intend to present a compelling case for it in our proposal.”
Despite the USAF stressing that pending World Trade Organisation (WTO) rulings would not be taken into account in the KC-X selection process, Boeing again raised the issue of what it terms illegal development subsidies being paid to Airbus over the years, including for the A330 program. “We also remain deeply concerned about the ability of a heavily subsidised Airbus/EADS to accept levels of financial risk that a commercial company such as Boeing cannot,” the statement read. “We regret that these concerns will not be addressed in the bid evaluation, even when the US government has proven in a world court that those subsidies are illegal and directly distort competition between Airbus and Boeing.”