KC-X Evaluation Begins Again–with a Surprise

 - July 16, 2010, 12:53 AM
The Pentagon began its quest to replace the KC-135 with the infamous single-source lease/purchase contract for 100 Boeing 767s as long ago as 2002. Now the long-running saga enters a new phase, with a winner expected this fall. (U.S. Air Force)

Last week bidders handed in their latest proposals for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-X program, which seeks 179 new tanker/transports to replace the aging KC-135 fleet. The deadline had been extended to allow EADS North America to prepare a new proposal following the withdrawal of Northrop Grumman, with whom EADS had been partnered until March. EADS is offering an Airbus A330-based tanker/transport, while Boeing has submitted its 767-based proposal.

In the weeks just before the deadline, it emerged that, to the surprise of most, there would a third bid. U.S. Aerospace has entered the fray with a design by Ukrainian manufacturer Antonov. Initially, U.S. Aerospace planned to enter three designs, with two larger machines (An-124 and twin-engine An-122 derivative) partially aimed at the longer-term KC-Y requirement. However, just the An-112KC proposal remains on the table for KC-X, a twinjet development of the four-engine An-70 turboprop transport. A request to further extend the bid deadline was denied, and a KC-X contract award is expected to be announced in November.