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Boeing Touts KC-X Cost, Jobs


Boeing's tanker bid is in for the $40 billion program. The company focused on size and cost in its release announcing the bid.

The 8,000-page proposal, "hand-delivered" to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, "offers an American-made, 767-based multi-mission tanker that will satisfy all 372 mandatory Air Force requirements and be capable, survivable, and combat-ready at the lowest cost to the taxpayer," according to the company's press release.

Aiming squarely at claims by EADS NA that its plane can offload more fuel at faster rates and has a tanker flying and ready to get built, Boeing said its tanker "will deliver widebody capabilities in a narrowbody footprint, operate in any theater or from any base, and -- with the lowest operating cost of any tanker in the competition -- save the Air Force and the American taxpayers billions of dollars."

One of the attributes mentioned in the Boeing release -- the digital flight deck using 787 Dreamliner displays -- raises interesting questions about cost that Boeing has so far not addressed. This is the biggest change from the last bid. Several close observers of the tanker competition say placing such modern technology in a relatively old airframe will require substantial and probably costly modifications.

Among the reasons for the Boeing decision to install the 787 technology is that this is proof of commitment to the company's "design philosophy that places the pilot in command rather than allowing computer software to limit combat maneuverability." That's a nice dig at Airbus' fly-by-wire approach which places considerable reliance on intelligent software and built-in systems to manage airplane performance.

Boeing also claims it will provide "tens of thousands more jobs in the United States than an Airbus A330 tanker that is designed and largely manufactured in Europe." EADS NA claims 48,000 U.S. jobs will result should it be awarded the contract. Biggest difference here is that Boeing claims "more than 800 suppliers in more than 40 states" while EADS claims 200 U.S. companies on its supplier base.

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