USAF Tanker Competition Deferred until 2009

 - September 16, 2008, 11:37 AM

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates last week called off the revised KC-X tanker solicitation before the final request for proposal (RFP) was issued.“We can no longer complete a competition that would be viewed as fair and objective in this highly charged environment,” he said. “The resulting ‘cooling off’ period will allow the next administration to review objectively the military requirements and craft a new acquisition strategy for the KC-X.” Boeing welcomed the move, but Northrop Grumman expressed disappointment and concern. Boeing would likely have wanted to bid a larger tanker based on the 767-400, but it would have been unable to complete the technical design before the projected October 1 deadline. Thus ends round two of what Gates described as the “enormously complex and emotional” effort to provide the USAF with a KC-135 replacement. Round one ended in 2004 when a Congressionally mandated deal to lease 100 KC-767 tankers from Boeing fell apart. The airframe that Boeing built as a prototype for that round is still parked at Everett, minus engines (see photo top). EADS/Airbus built and flew two A330-200 airframes for round two ahead of contract award (see photo bottom). The A330s are still parked at Dresden, Germany, where Elbe Flugzeugwerke was due to install their main deck cargo doors, before the fitting of tanker equipment by EADS-MTA at Madrid.