KC-X Tanker Competition Back On

Someday this tanker competition is going to end. But not today. Taking advantage of the Pentagon's generous extension to allow the company to put together a bid, EADS threw its KC-45 aircraft, the U.S. military version of the A330 Tanker used by a number of allies, into the KC-X Tanker competition.

“Our KC-45 is the only real, flying, low-risk solution that today meets the demanding Air Force air refueling requirements and is actually in production now. That fact is critical because our warfighters deserve a true best value solution,” EADS North America Chairman said in a press release today. The company is pursuing a solo bid.

“Our aircraft has demonstrated its unparalleled capability by refueling a variety of military aircraft utilizing both boom and hose and drogue systems, as well as by operating in the receiving position. That’s a statement our competition can’t make,” said Crosby. He told reporters at a press conference today that EADS has every chance of winning.

What are EADS’ chances? I’m guessing about zero. The Teal Group’s crackerjack aerospace analyst, Richard Aboulafia, said EADS, and back then Northrop Grumman, sunk themselves when they went all in on a Southern Republican political strategy. Promising factories in Republican states and courting Republican senators John McCain, Trent Lott, Jeff Sessions, and Richard Shelby. Those senators, particularly Shelby and Sessions, lobbied heavily for the Northrop-EADS plane.

Then came the November 2008 elections and the Republicans were out and the Democrats in charge of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. Even bigger was the death of Jack Murtha, Aboulafia says, and his replacement by the “hyper pro-Boeing” Norm Dicks.

The well respected Aboulafia laments the sad history of the tanker procurement saga as another step propelling U.S. procurement practices away from globalized buying and closer to the European model (its well worth reading both of his newsletters). He writes:

“The US needs to stop the maddening politicization of weapons procurement. It’s one thing for congressmen to steer add-ons to their home districts. It’s quite another thing for them to meddle in weapons procurement competitions on the basis of where one side’s equipment is built. These politicians should be chastised.”

And on that note, let the tanker competition begin. Again.

-- Greg

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