UPDATED: Boeing Spokesman Says No Decision "About Which Plane To Offer Or Whether To Offer Both"
Building a bid for a major acquisition program like the KC-X tanker is expensive and consumes many man hours, but Boeing will place bids for both the 767 and the 777 versions of their airborne tanker.
A lot of the defense press was puzzled by Boeing's statement last week after the release of the draft RFP. "Our next step is to conduct a detailed review of the document. We want to understand how requirements will be defined and prioritized and how the proposals will be evaluated. That information will help us decide which plane to offer or whether to offer both planes. We appreciate that there will be frequent, open discussion with the U.S. Air Force as we go forward. Both the Air Force and the American taxpayer will benefit from the tanker options we can offer. Boeing has a KC-7A7 'family of tankers' available to meet the warfighter's requirements. Whether it's the agile, flexible 767-based tanker or the large 777-based tanker, Boeing will deliver a combat-ready tanker with maximum capability at the lowest cost."
Did this mean they were offering both planes in one bid? Two planes in two bids? One plane definitely and one plane maybe? I dug around and got someone to confirm that Boeing plans to offer two bids. I can understand the logic behind Boeing offering the 777 since it and the Northrop plane are the most similar in terms of size and range and the fact that they are both recent designs. But virtually no work has been done on a tanker version of the plane, although Boeing has certainly done internal studies and must have done preliminary design work.
The company, on reading our story, made clear Tuesday that it wants to maintain the ambiguity of its earlier statement. "We have not made any decision about which plane to offer or whether to offer both planes," William Barksdale, Boeing's tanker spokesman, wrote in an email.
For fun, here is some video of Sen. Pat Murray of Washington at the controls of the boom simulator that Boeing had up on Capitol Hill last week. None of you will be surprised to learn that all of the lawmakers who visited the simulator were either from Washington or from districts with lots of Boeing jobs.