Boeing will reveal more details here today about the NewGen Tanker, its entry for the third round of the U.S. Air Force KC-X competition. In the war of words accompanying the long-running and ill-starred contest, Boeing has not previously specified exactly how it will add a digital 787-style cockpit and a new fly-by-wire boom to the 767 airframe. Rival contender EADS North America (EADS NA) has again bid the A330MRTT, as the KC-45.
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.
Yesterday, Boeing licensed the rights to AgustaWestland’s AW101 for the purpose of entering it in the latest U.S. presidential helicopter competition, known as VXX. Under the deal, Boeing will have full data, intellectual property and production rights for the three-engine, medium-lift helicopter.
EADS has decided to bid the A330MRTT for the U.S. Air Force KC-X requirement again, this time without a major North American partner. Ralph Crosby, chairman of EADS North America, said that the Pentagon had recognized EADS North America as a qualified prime contractor. Leaving Boeing as the sole-source bidder “harms the U.S. taxpayer,” Crosby added.
A version of the Boeing 767 dubbed “NewGen Tanker” will win the reopened U.S. Air Force KC-X competition by default, after Northrop Grumman declined to bid the Airbus A330MRTT.
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).
According to Airbus Military officials, the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) has won all the recent competitions for a large aerial tanker because of its superior airframe, coupled to a unique, high-technology refueling system. “We’re very proud of our in-house boom,” said Peter Scoffham, vice president for defense capability marketing.
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.
Battle lines were drawn here this week for round three of the Great Tanker War. Conflict is likely to break out next month, when the Pentagon is expected to issue a new draft request for proposals (RFP) for the KC-X program. Boeing said that it may now offer a tanker version of the 777.