Thu, Apr 09, 2009
Could Contentious Bidding Process Finally Be Resolved?
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has removed a little more of
the mystery from the twice-stalled KC-X aerial tanker contract
competition. Florida Today reports Gates will try to choose a
contractor by the end of this summer.
The paper's interest in the story is, of course, the 500-plus
jobs in Florida's Brevard County which would come with a win by
Northrup Grumman and EADS over competitor Boeing.
Gates appears to be ending
the "cooling-off" period he called for last
year, to allow for a hiatus on inflamed congressional
rhetoric during the 2008 US federal elections. Lawmakers have made
various threats to Pentagon funding to influence a contract award
which would benefit their home districts.
Both competitors have welcomed the word on the resumed
competition. Spokesman Randy Belote told the paper Northrop will
probably be back with its earlier proposal, a tanker based on the
Airbus A330 passenger jet. Boeing's Dan Beck says his company will
wait to see the request for proposals before
As ANN has reported, Boeing submitted a tanker
version of its B767 commercial airliner for the previous rounds of
KC-X, though it has said before
a larger B777-based variant could be offered
if the Air Force places greater emphasis on tankering capabilities
in the new RFP. The A330 roughly splits the difference between the
two Boeing planes in terms of size.
Gates addressed the challenges from losing bidders which
derailed the last two competitions, saying it can be avoided if,
"...we structure this fairly and we carry out the process by our
Meanwhile, the current fleet of half-century-old KC-135 tankers
will have to remain in Air Force service for at least a few more
years. In fact, some have speculated the last KC-135 may finally be
retired near its 80th birthday.
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