Airbus Boosts KC-X Bid with More U.S. Production

 - January 16, 2008, 4:58 AM

EADS-Airbus said it would produce the A330-200 freighter on the same production line in Mobile, Ala., as the KC-30 tanker, if the U.S. Air Force selects that aircraft for its KC-X requirement. Northrop Grumman is bidding the KC-30 against the Boeing 767 tanker, and the Pentagon is due to announce its long-awaited choice at the end of this month. The move makes sense for Airbus since it would boost the production rate at Mobile to a more efficient four per month. Airbus has taken 66 orders for the A330 freighter since it was launched early last year. It would move labor-intensive final assembly of the A330 freighter into the dollar zone; Airbus has suffered from having to price in dollars while incurring most costs in the stronger euro. Both the A330-200F and the KC-30 have a large main deck cargo door, but the three countries that have already selected tanker versions of the A330 do not require this feature. Meanwhile, the A330 production line at Toulouse is busy, with a sales backlog of more than 400 aircraft. Meanwhile, the search for private financing to complete the deal to supply 14 A330 tankers to the UK Royal Air Force continues to drag on. It has been seven years since the British MoD first launched a competition for the replacement of aging VC-10 and Tristar tankers, and two years since the Airtanker consortium led by EADS was selected. A spokesman for EADS UK told AIN that the funding arrangements would be completed “by March.”