Split could seal Air Force aerial-ref...

Split could seal Air Force aerial-refueling tanker contract

There are 17 comments on the Chicago Tribune story from Jul 18, 2009, titled Split could seal Air Force aerial-refueling tanker contract. In it, Chicago Tribune reports that:

Worth upward of $100 billion, the contract to supply the U.S. Air Force with hundreds of new aerial-refueling tankers will be among the largest ever awarded by the Pentagon.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Chicago Tribune.


Chicago, IL

#1 Jul 18, 2009
and the maintenance cost to the taxpayers thanks to having two sets of aircraft to maintain vs. just one?

Give it to Boeing, Airbus are flawed planes in their design philosophy that computers can do everything better than a human.
dont know squat


#2 Jul 18, 2009
have a nice cup of stfu John. EADS has the better aircraft, it was proven that way until Boeing whined like your crummy self

Katy, TX

#3 Jul 18, 2009
I don’t where the author got the idea that there have been three failed contests. From my count, there has been only one contest; and if not for the strong political pull of Boeing and the unions, Northrop Grumman/EADS would be a year into the contract of supplying the Air Force with a much needed fleet of aircraft. The Boeing leasing scandal was not a contest.

The author also referred to the Boeing offering as “smaller, cheaper”. But surprisingly, the larger, more capable plane offered by Northrop Grumman/EADS and selected by the Air Force was actually less expensive than the Boeing plane.

Glendale Heights, IL

#4 Jul 18, 2009
dont know squat go to Mulhouse France and you can see the effects of a screwed up design philosophy. When a pilot wants the engine to give him thrust he should get it, not have a computer say SORRY!
JR from Texas

El Segundo, CA

#5 Jul 18, 2009
Having maintained both Airbus and Boeing aircraft for over 25 years. I hold an FAA Airframe and Powerplant Certificate with Inspection Authorization and have a degree in Aerospace Engineering. I work everyday working doing repair design for Airbus and Boeing airframes., So I think I am very well qualified to say that Boeing builds a better airplane.
Airbus aircraft are less expensive to buy initially but the cheap stops there! How many 20 to 30 year old Airbus aircraft do you see flying around? There are plenty of 30 to 50 year old Boeing’s flying! I was in Florida where they were scrapping 20 year old Airbus airframes... HELLO, am I the only person who sees a royal flush of tax payer dollars coming or what.
I recently worked on an Airbus A330 rudder and was shocked to see how lousy the design was. Very few fasteners, louse structural design topped of by being built with materials that leave safety out.
I also noticed the design of the entire rudder system is flawed! If you look at the Boeing 747-400 you will notice the empennage flight controls are split with an inboard elevator and out board elevator. The rudder has an upper rudder and a lower rudder.
By splitting the flight controls up you can eliminate excessive bending forces on the empennage. By using the small inboard flight controls for control of the aircraft at altitude and during high speed cruise, this helps to localize the flight load forces to the area that is closest to the mounting point.
The Rudder Systems on the A330 and the A380 are designed to use a single full length trailing edge flight control surfaces. This means that the rudder is subjecting greater bending forces at the mounting point due to increased bending forces transferred from the tip of the empennage to the point where each meets the fuselage.
AIRBUS: "Proudly building flaws into every design since 1970"

Durham, NC

#6 Jul 18, 2009
There have been three failed attempts to buy tanker aircraft. The first lease purchase deal with Boeing was cancelled by Donald Rumsfeld in 2006, due to congressional opposition led by Senator McCain after the Druyun affair came to light. The second contest that awarded the deal to NG/EADS was cancelled after the GAO found the contest was flawed, again even though a GAO finding is not necessarily binding there is no way congress would fund a flawed contest. A third attempt to rerun the 2nd contest was cancelled by the Pentagon before they even ran it, due to the upcoming change in administration and the fact that Boeings supporters didn't want to rerun the contest as the Pentagon was proposing.

All three attempts to purchase the tankers were basically called off by the Pentagon due to the fact congress was unwilling to fund the awarded contract in case 1 and 2, and congress was unwilling to support rerunning the contest in case 3. Murtha believes he can make both sides happy by awarding each one of them a contract. In an era of 1 trillion plus deficits I would submit the idea of boxing us into purchasing nearly twice the number of aircraft 24 per year as opposed to 12 and buying two dissimilar airframes is ridiculous. The Pentagon needs to define what airframe is required and purchase it, end of story. If that means we can't have a 50/50 contest as demanded by McCain which resulted in the second contest being so convuluted it was bound to be challenged then so be it.

all three potential aircraft (767, A330, and 777) have advantages and disadvantages, if the Pentagon feels there is a compelling reason to purchase the A330 they need to spell it out. Otherwise why bother with this pointless sharade and just ask for a KC-135 replacement, which would be a 767 or a KC-10 replacement which would be a 777. I see no reason to entertain Murtha's nonsense and we should award EADS a contract for an unwanted aircraft just because congress can't get it's act together.

Tallahassee, FL

#7 Jul 18, 2009
It still adds up to one failed contest. The lease scandal where Boeing tried to rip off the military (treason?) and the taxpayers was not a contest. And certainly, a postponement of an RFP is not considered a contest.

It should be clear to all that the EADS offer is far superior to the Boeing offer. If that was not the case, the Air Force would have chosen the Boeing plane and avoided all this fallout. Even though it is second best, the Boeing design does not have detriments that would rule it incapable of completing the missions.

The Air Force should just accept the Boeing proposal and pay Northrop Grumman/EADS for their time and effort spent. And we Americans can hope and pray that Boeing doesn’t attempt to shortchange the taxpayers like they did in the initial lease award and on the border security virtual-fence project.

Waukesha, WI

#8 Jul 19, 2009
lets just cut the funding and save $100 billion dollars. This government is already running in a deficit and this could be a big step to fixing it.

Lisbon, Portugal

#9 Jul 20, 2009
Matthew - you suggest cutting the funding? Then what does your US Air Force fly to refuel aircraft? The newest KC-135 was built in 1964.

I suggest a split purchase for several reasons:
- Maintain multiple industrial bases. It is good for Boeing to have competition; otherwise they'll get complacent. Plus, we won't be able to sell other equipment in Europe if we're never willing to purchase European equipment.
- More importantly, so we don't rely on just one airframe. Many of our AF airframes have had systematic problems which required grounding the fleet (F-15, C-130, and C-141 are easy examples). What if you buy 400-odd KC-767s and then a few years down the road the fleet is grounded for center wing box cracks?

Here's what I suggest:
- Purchase approximately 200 KC-45s (the A-330 tanker) from NG-EADS.
- Purchase approximately 200 copies of a tanker version of the B-787. While NG-EADS are building the KC-45s, Boeing can develop the tanker version of the 787. That way, the AF gets a tanker NOW, while also getting the latest possible airframe technology in a few years.

PS - we already have a split tanker fleet - the KC-135 and the KC-10 (don't forget that the KC-10s are approaching 30 years of age).
geo w booosh

United States

#10 Jul 20, 2009
AIRBUS SUCKS! not enough glue on their tail sections....yipes!
Tom in Glenview

Vernon Hills, IL

#13 Jul 20, 2009
Since Boeing uses a lot of foreign content in their planes and Airbus uses a lot of U.S. components, I don't see any problem with splitting the order. However, I believe that they should both use the same engine which would radically reduce the spare parts required. Many years ago, Northwest Orient Airlines forced McDonell Douglas to use the same engine in the DC-10 that was being supplied with the Boeing 747's. The result was a tremendous savings in spare parts and training of the mechanics.

Durham, NC

#14 Jul 20, 2009
The KC-30 is 57% US content vs. 85% US content for the KC-767. The Boeing plane has substantally more US content than the EADS offering.
Also, splitting the order makes no sense at all. It would simply drive up cost and provide two aircraft with nearly the same capablity, since while bigger than a KC-767, the KC-30 offers not significant advantages other than it can carry more cargo.
This is because while it carries more fuel than the KC-767 it is much less efficient than 767 as a larger aircraft and burns 24 percent more fuel, so after 2000nm it can actually offload less fuel than a KC-767. Buying both aircraft makes zero sense military since they are both so close in terms of capabilities with each other. The only solution is to purchase one aircraft type, or purchase either the KC-30 or KC-767 and a KC-777 if you really must since the KC-777 can carry substatially more fuel than either the 767 or A330 and has substantially greater range. A KC-777 based on the Boeing 777LR would carry 350,000 lbs of fuel vs. 250,000 for the KC-30 or 202,000 for the KC-767 and would actually make a usefull complement. However, this would create one problem as the KC-777 and KC-30 are about the same physical size so why buy a KC-30 at all if the 777 is in the mix?
In buying both aircraft the only winner would be a European company that has accepted 35 billion in illegal subsidies according the US government, is involved in a billion dollar bribery scandal involving the sale of fighters to Saudi Arabia, and is currently the only large defense contractor under investigation for bribery in North America, yes Airbus paid actual bribes to the Canadian Government in 90s to get Air Canada to purchase their aircraft. There is no reason to reward such behavior.

Durham, NC

#15 Jul 20, 2009
Oh, last thing about mixing aircraft types. Airlines often do mix Boeing and Aircraft types, but they never mix aircraft with capabilities as similar as the KC-767 and KC-30.

They may for example buy Boeing narrobodies 737s and Airbus widebodies A330s or A340s, they may even mix A330s and 777s as the 777 is a more capable (longer range and more expensive) aircraft than the A330, but no Airline has ever placed a simultaneous order for 767s and A330s as both aircraft are much to close in their range and capacity to make sense operating both. Similarly Airlines do not place orders for both the A320 and 737 narrobodies as they are to close in capability and would drive up costs to operate both simultaneously.

Paying for two aircraft that so similar makes no sense for airlines and they try to avoid the situation. It makes even less sense for the Air Force since in addition to the different types your talking two different refueling systems more maintenance and development costs and two different expensive military avionics and electronic suites.

Additionally, in order to make both lines affordable the manufactures have stated they need around 12 orders a year. What if Congress can't or won't fund the minumum 24 aircraft a year as is likely. In that case both the taxpayer and the the Air Force will be screwed as the unit cost for both aircraft will spiral upward. Especially the KC-30 as it will have a new dedicated production facility in Alababama that the Taxpayer will now need to support and add to our burgeoning welfare rolls.
Michael Wm Denis

Mcdonough, GA

#16 Jul 21, 2009
So Jim, help me out here - you say that a dual fleet (like KC-135s and KC-10s and KC-130s) would cost more (acquisition cost, sustainment cost, total lifecycle cost)? Could you explain how and why?

WRT mixing fleets - are you saying that US Airways doesn't fly B737s and A320s as well as A330s and B767s just like Lufthansa / Qantas / Air Canada and several other airlines that fly both Boeing and Airbus NB and WB with similar mission profiles?

Could the 92d Air Refueling Wing fly KC-45A (A330 MRTT) in support of USPACOM and USCENTCOM and coordinate sustainment support with the RAAF, RAF, UAEAF and RSAF (who have bought the A330 MRTT) while the 22d and ARW flys the B767 in support of USEUCOM and USAFRICOM coordinating sustainment support with the Italian AF who bought the KC-767 and the 319th ARW also flying the KC-767 in support of USNORTHCOM and USSOUTHCOM?

Sort of like three different airlines flying to three different geographies.

Or the 319th could be up for grabs to the team that delivered the better Performance Based Logistics total lifecycle cost per operating hour availability - like many in Congress are suggesting.

Bottom line is:

We have a mixed fleet now and it is old and expensive to sustain.

If there is a winner take all contract for the KC-135 we are still going to have a three a/c mixed fleet.

The problem isn't multiple aircraft types the problem is with aircraft sustainment capabilities within the DOD and USAF (AFMC specifically) where the Depots (ALCs) don't know the configuration of operating a/c with ACC or AMC until the a/c arrives for its PDM (a maintenance paradigm the commercial airline industry abandoned thirty years ago with the advent of MSG-2 and MSG-3 (and RCM within NAVAIR).

The real bottom line is - the international and domestic political realities of the situation are that there will be no acquisition of either a/c type unless it is split.

So if taxpayers are happy wasting money on depots turning wrenches and buying 30-40 y/o parts from diminishing sources of supply (and highly inflated prices) then the administration and DOD needs to get on with a split contract.

At the same time, if the administration wants to forego a "shovel ready" program with good paying jobs in multiple states and prolong the recession then the DOD (Gates) needs to stick by his "winner take all" statement.

Everett, WA

#17 Jul 25, 2009
Could a 737/777 mix be possable? The smaller 737 could just do fighters and helos, but could also take on fuel from a 777 and remain airborne. The 737 could operate from almost anywhere.

Seattle, WA

#19 Sep 15, 2009
TO: Dont know sqwat- Your name suits you...as you cant seem to support your ignorant statement with any substance...
Good thread
unfortunatly to many people willing to give up the farm. I am Military and would be More comfortable in a Boeing product than a french one.
Also hate the Idea of paying a corrupted company as well as a foreign company so much of my Tax $$
Michael Wm Denis

Mcdonough, GA

#20 Sep 15, 2009
In commercial aviation cargo - the outcome that we seek is Revneues greater than Costs - and the metric is Revenue Ton Miles versus Cost per available Ton Mile. These are total in costs or lifecycle costs.

On that basis the best value for the USAF is the KC-45 (A330 MRTT). Add in that the rest of the world is also going this way and the lifecycle cost will end up being lower than a KC-767 - that's a fact that we just can't escape.

The other fact we just can't escape is that the our government is in deep debt and the DOD can't continue to be a welfare / jobs program for companies that just happen to have headquarters in the US.

The KC-45 is as much a US bird as the KC-767 is - 60% of the revenue will go to US companies and US workers - Northrop Grumman is the prime, GE engines, Goodrich landing gears, Honeywell avionics,... and it will be assembled in the US.

All paying US Taxes - so the best deal for USAF airmen and pilots AND the best deal for US taxpayers is the NG KC-45.

Having said this - I still believe the ONLY way a deal gets through the administration and congress is by spliting the acquisition - which in itself could also lower the lifecycle cost if contracted via a "whole up" PBL and using Autonomic Sustainment capabilities. Unfortunately this is beyond AFMC's capability to deliver.

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