The Pentagon has offered to extend the bid deadline for the USAF’s drawn out KC-X tanker replacement program by 60 days from May 10 to July 9 in order to give EADS time to prepare a stand-alone proposal for the contract.
EADS had asked for 90 days in order to prepare a bid based on its A330 airliner without former bid partner Northrop Grumman, and the extension is only contingent on EADS informing the Pentagon of its intention to bid. Northrop Grumman decided earlier this year to not bid for KC-X as a prime contractor, claiming the USAF’s RFP was too heavily weighted in favour of Boeing’s smaller KC-767 offering.
“Since the Department of Defense indicated their interest in EADS’s participation as prime contractor in the KC-X tanker competition, the company has carefully assessed the many requirements necessary to participate,” EADS spokesman Guy Hicks said in a statement. “We have firmly indicated that a 90 day extension would be the minimum time necessary to prepare a responsible proposal for this (US)$40 billion program. We will consider the Department’s decision to offer a 60 day extension.”
The extended bid deadline is not expected to affect the project’s schedule, as the Pentagon says it will compress other areas of the schedule in order to stay on track.
Predictably, Boeing expressed its disappointment with the extension offer. “We are deeply disappointed with EADS-Airbus efforts to further delay this vital warfighting program and tilt the US procurement process in its favour. EADS-Airbus has been fully engaged in the competition for four years and was always expected to provide the vast majority of its team’s work content,” a company statement read. “Boeing remains fully prepared to submit a competitive proposal by the May 10 deadline originally set by the Air Force. However, this latest development, along with the World Trade Organisation’s recent final ruling that Airbus has been heavily and illegally subsidised for decades, requires Boeing to review all of our options for going forward while we wait for a final determination on a deadline extension.”
Just what Boeing’s “options” may be is unknown at this stage – some observers have speculated the company may elect to resurrect its 777 based proposal, or it may further refine its latest KC-767NG offering, or perhaps formally protest the extension through the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) or US Congress.