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Ta Da! Boeing Unveils Its KC-X

Boeing unveiled the plane it will offer for the KC-X airborne tanker competition today, including a little movie and a press release.

There was no mention of a 777 tanker, just the long-expected 767. One of the more intriguing adds to the new bid was the news that the new tanker will boast "a digital flight deck featuring electronic displays" taken from the 787, Boeing's most advanced civilian plane. It will "show all flight attitude, navigation, engine indication and crew-alerting information on screens 75 percent larger than on a commercial Airbus A330." One can almost hear the Boeing folks crying: Take that EADS!

Boeing said in its release that the new tanker "will meet all of the Air Force's 372 requirements" and will rely on "a low-risk approach to manufacturing." For members of Congress and their staff, as well as lobbyists everywhere, the release notes that it will be built in Washington and Kansas, as well as by "suppliers throughout the nation."

And in a finally flurry of blows against Northrop Grumman and its partner EADS, the release claims the Boeing plane will be "more cost-effective to own and operate than the larger, heavier Airbus airplane" and will "save American taxpayers more than $10 billion in fuel costs over its 40-year service life because it burns 24 percent less fuel." Not only that, but the Boeing program "will support substantially more jobs in the United States than an Airbus A330 tanker that is designed and largely manufactured in Europe."

OK, we won't go into just who relies more on foreign suppliers or who will generate more jobs. After all, it's not clear yet whether Northrop plans to bid on the tanker and risk the substantial costs that go into preparing and offering a bid. EADS is apparently pushing Northrop to bid as it would mark a remarkable long-term penetration of the American defense market by a foreign company.

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