Ten weeks after the deadline for comments on the draft RFP for the latest attempt to procure a new KC-X aerial refueling tanker, the Pentagon has still not released the final document. It now says to expect this by the end of the month, and that some changes have been made. Northrop Grumman said it would not bid unless the final RFP was changed to give credit for the greater capacity of the A330MRTT (aka KC-45). But if recent comments by the new CEO of EADS North America are taken at face value, wholesale changes are required to meet the transatlantic partnership’s objections.
Former NASA Administrator and Navy Secretary Sean O’Keefe told journalists at an EADS new year press conference that, unlike the RFP for the previous aborted competition, the draft RFP “did not call for a tanker modernization. It’s a straight replacement of the KC-135, with all 373 criteria weighted exactly the same, and no recognition of value beyond the baseline capability,” he said. He also noted that the document assumed identical risk from the competing proposals. The Northrop Grumman/EADS team believes that the draft RFP therefore favors the smaller and yet-to-be-fully-developed Boeing 767AT over the larger and almost-completely-developed A330MRTT.
Boeing said it understood that no significant changes would be made to the draft RFP. The company was facing the possibility of having to bid a completely undeveloped tanker version of the 777 (pictured) if the new competition seemed to favor a larger tanker.
Both sides in the great tanker battle have likely objected in the same terms to one aspect of the draft RFP. It calls for an unprecedented 18-year fixed-price contract. No such deal has ever previously been contemplated, let alone signed, in the U.S.