Boeing is formally protesting the U.S. Air Force’s “surprise decision” in favor of the Northrop Grumman/EADS Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) for the KC-X tanker requirement. According to the Air Force, the keenly fought award is worth $35 billion for up to 179 KC-45As–the new, officially approved designation.
Northrop Grumman KC-45
Boeing delivered the first of four KC-767 Tankers to Japan yesterday, 15 months behind schedule. Before leaving U.S. airspace on a 14-hour ferry flight to Gifu airbase neat Nagoya, it flew in formation with the No. 2 airplane that will follow after the Japan Air Self-Defense Force completes a formal acceptance process.
Japan expects to receive its first pair of KC-767 tankers by the end of this year’s first quarter as the controversial and much-maligned program’s development schedule at last appears firmly established.
EADS-Airbus said it would produce the A330-200 freighter on the same production line in Mobile, Ala., as the KC-30 tanker, if the U.S. Air Force selects that aircraft for its KC-X requirement. Northrop Grumman is bidding the KC-30 against the Boeing 767 tanker, and the Pentagon is due to announce its long-awaited choice at the end of this month.
The first of four Boeing 767s destined for the Japan Tanker Program arrived at the modification center in Wichita, Kansas, last week for conversion into a KC-767 aerial refueler. The Japan defense agency ordered the tanker for the Japan air self defense force in 2001 after a competition between the KC-767 and the Airbus A310. Boeing plans to deliver the first Japanese KC-767 in December 2006.
Described as a “sunrise platform” by Marc Lindsley, Northrop Grumman’s director of business development for the Airbus A330-based KC-30 program, the aircraft is perceived to be a worthy successor to the KC-135, which will still be around for many years. He points to the success of the A330 in winning both the Australian and UK air force tanker competitions in which a transport capability was an important requirement.
- Page 3