KC-45 Conundrum for Airbus

 - June 18, 2009, 12:20 PM

Airbus and Northrop Grumman are reluctant to discuss the status of the two KC-45s (A330s) built for the KC-X USAF tanker competition in advance of the award of the contract to Northrop Grumman by the Pentagon last year. Northrop Grumman offered the aircraft as proof of its serious intent in pursuing the requirement. The first KC-45 was flown to Dresden for the addition of a main-deck cargo door by EADS-EFW. But the work had hardly started when Northrop Grumman’s tanker contract was terminated after Boeing’s protest was upheld. The second one flew directly from Toulouse to the EADS facility at Getafe near Madrid, for installation of the tanker boom. This work was also not started, and both aircraft are now parked at Getafe.

It has not gone unnoticed that the French and other European air forces are desperately in need of additional airlift resources, because of delays to the Airbus A400M military transport program. EADS/Airbus has offered to supply aircraft, such as the C-295 and the A330, as interim airlifters. The two KC-45s/A330s at Getafe would be ideal candidates, and given the current lack of A300/A310 freighter conversion work at Dresden, might be quickly converted and made available. But it seems that these airplanes are in legal limbo, while Northrop Grumman negotiates compensation with the Pentagon for last year’s termination. Northrop Grumman vice-president Paul Meyer told AIN that his company would submit a claim within the 360-day deadline set by the U.S. government, and that the two aircraft were part of it. An informed source told AIN that one of the two KC-45s/A330s is part-owned by the U.S. Air Force.