Airbus Military boss calls for the right to compete on battlefield airlifter

written by australianaviation.com.au | May 25, 2012
A Spanish air force C295.

Despite the Alenia C-27J being selected for the RAAF’s battlefield airlifter requirement earlier this month, Airbus Military CEO Domingo Urena has called for transparency over the decision and for an open competition in which it can offer the C295.

“The only thing we claim is, ‘give us the right to compete’,” Urena told journalists in France this week when asked for a response on the C-27J decision.

“Give us the right to demonstrate completely in a transparent way what we are capable of doing and how much value we add for taxpayers.”

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Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced the selection of the C-27J during the RAAF’s Air Power Conference on May 10. Ten C-27Js will be ordered through the US FMS process, while a separate maintenance and support agreement will be reached with Alenia. Minister Smith put the value of the acquisition at $1.4 billion, a figure almost double what Airbus Military has said a similar acquisition of the C295 would cost.

“We are fighting to give us this opportunity [for a competition] and if we have that opportunity I think we will demonstrate like in many countries that we have much more value than the C-27J.”

Urena conceded there were some capabilities the C295 lacked compared to the C-27J, but asked, “what is the value of those requirements versus the total capability that you are looking for?”

Urena also said Airbus Military had yet to receive a response from the Australian government on its unsolicited proposal to convert a sixth A330 into a KC-30 for the RAAF with Qantas Defence at Brisbane, which would keep the conversion line open ahead of potential future work for other A330 MRTT customers.

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“This offer is still on the table, but unfortunately by the end of the month we [begin to] shut down the Qantas Defence [conversion activity], we are going to finalise how we are going to finish aircraft number five, and then unfortunately those capabilities are going to be lost,” he said.

“We have never got an answer from the Australian government … [but] every country has the sovereign right to say something or to say nothing, so [I make] no criticism of that, [I have] no opposition to how they acted.”

Urena’s comments come two weeks after Airbus Military issued an unusually harsh response to Australia’s decision to order the C-27J, in particular disputing the Defence Minister’s public statement that the C-27J was selected after a competition with the C295.

“Airbus Military is obliged to place on the public record our disappointment … because there was no tender process and certainly no competition,” the company said in the statement. “We certainly do not begrudge the ADF making decisions about preferred capability and platforms following careful consideration of tender-quality and commercially-binding information. But on this occasion, selection of the C-27J for $1.4 billion seems to have been based largely on the RAAF’s own desktop assessments.”

Continued the statement, “When compared to other projects with similar size price tags that go through an arduous process of tender responses and deep investigation of all areas concerning ownership of a capability, this effort falls short of a full evaluation process.”

Said Urena, “We want transparency and a competition and then the best they will win.”

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