Reports have been circulating that Boeing may not bid on the tanker program. Boeing's IDS spokesman, Dan Beck, replied immediately on Monday evening to an email query from us.
Here's what he said: "...we have not been talking about our internal deliberations and no decisions have been made. We submitted our comments on the draft RFP yesterday and are meeting with the government at Wright-Patterson AFB tomorrow to discuss it. Any speculation on Boeing's future path at this time is very premature. We're still committed to providing the USAF with their next-generation tanker but we want to be sure that it's a fair and open competition."
Now there is some wriggle room there with that line about making sure it is a "fair and open competition" but Boeing is clearly still engaged in preparing a bid, spending money to do so and placing its corporate credibility on the line in doing so. While any company has the right to pull out of a competition until it signs a contract, Boeing has placed so much of its corporate blood on the line here that stepping away from the competition would be seen as an enormous defeat for the company and raise questions about its ability to judge risk and the needs of its single biggest customer. So I think it highly unlikely they would do so.
On the other hand, the company's officers have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders and if they make the judgment that they would be throwing good money after bad in placing a tanker bid that they are unlikely to win, it could happen.
A tip of the hat to my colleagues at Aviation Week for the original story that Boeing might not bid.