As the award date for the Air Force’s KC-X tanker program
draws near, the level of competition is reaching a fever pitch.
Recently, Boeing has gone to alarming lengths to spread inaccurate
and misleading information regarding both Northrop Grumman’s
proposal and the workforce that would build it.
The KC-X tanker competition is between two of America’s
defense giants — Boeing and Northrop Grumman. Whichever
platform is selected, the Air Force will be buying an American
tanker; all claims to the contrary are designed to mislead.
Boeing’s KC-767 is based upon a near-obsolete 767 commercial
aircraft, and Northrop Grumman’s KC-30 is based upon the
modern market-leading A-330. Despite touting its 75 years of
experience, Boeing has not delivered a tanker platform since 1965.
The company is four years late delivering its KC-767 tanker to
Italy and two years late delivering its tanker to Japan.
The KC-767 is indisputably far less capable than the KC-30
tanker. The KC-767 is 15 years older and uses outdated hydraulic
flight control systems. It cannot stay in a refueling orbit as long
as a KC-30, nor is it as reliable. The KC-30 outperforms
Boeing’s KC-767 by not only industry standards, but most
importantly, the Air Force’s standards.
The KC-30 is nearly 30 percent better than the KC-767 because it
carries nearly 45,000 more pounds of fuel; offloads more; and can
take off from very short runways with its superior fuel load. The
KC-30 also carries more cargo and more passengers, providing far
Great Britain, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, and
reportedly Saudi Arabia have all chosen the KC-30 design over the
KC-767 in the last four international tanker competitions. Its
unique versatility, capability and reliability have made KC-30 the
clear international choice while Italy and Japan await their
It is unfortunate that divisive, irrelevant issues continue to
be injected into this important competition. One obvious example is
the trade dispute over aircraft subsidies for development of
commercial jetliners. The Department of Defense recognized in
the early stages of the tanker competition that this dispute was
irrelevant, and it was eliminated; yet the issue continues to be
raised. Charges continue to be made by Boeing that it is risky for
U.S. military forces to rely on foreign suppliers. Ironically,
Boeing and its team recently won a DoD contract for the Joint Cargo
Aircraft, an Italian-built aircraft that will be assembled by
Boeing in Florida. Any attempt by a contractor to wrap itself in
the American flag during a competition today is disingenuous and
We in Congress are concerned about jobs in the United States.
Any assertion the Northrop Grumman KC-30 program
“steals” jobs from American aerospace workers and sends
them to France or Europe is factually incorrect. By assembling the
KC-30 tanker in new facilities in Mobile, Ala., the Northrop
Grumman proposal brings thousands of jobs into the U.S. According
to the Commerce Department’s job-forecasting tool, the
industry standard, both Boeing and Northrop Grumman will employ the
same number of American workers, about 25,000, to build its
The Air Force must buy the most modern, capable, versatile and
cost-effective tanker currently available. It needs KC-X tankers
that provide maximum range, payload and persistence; tankers free
from technical problems; tankers that will be delivered on time and
on cost; tankers that are reliable and available when called to
action; and tankers that represent the best value to the military
and to American taxpayers. We believe the KC-30 is the correct
choice for our military and provides the best opportunity for our
warfighters to succeed.