As you’ve likely already heard, the consortium of EADS (Airbus) -Northrop Grumman was recently awarded, by the USAF, a $30 to $40 billion contract for the production of the newest series of military in-flight refueling aircraft.
Some people believe this award to be of little consequence; others believe that proffering a contract of this magnitude to the French (and Europe) is an error of monumental proportions.
I tend to embrace the latter thought.
It gets down to: the Airbus 330 v. the Boeing 767.
The things you won’t hear or read:
- EADS (Airbus) has never built a refueling platform.
- The 767 tanker is in current production (for overseas customers).
- EADS has to build an entirely new factory in order to fulfill the contract.
- The 767 line has been running for 20 years, and doesn’t have enough new orders to keep it open. Its unused capacity can be ramped up to whatever rate the USAF wants.
- The 330 tanker can’t refuel the Osprey OR any Navy or Marine aircraft, or any Army helicopter.
- The 767 can already refuel most of them.
- The 767 tanker can be maintained by current KC-135 (the military equivalent of the 707)facilities.
- The 330 will require all new maintenance facilities, because of it’s larger wingspan.
- The USAF repeatedly told Boeing it wasn’t interested in a 777 tanker, because they wanted a smaller airplane. They also didn’t want tankerized, refitted MD-11’s (the USAF’s most recent tanker platforms) because they were too big.
- Then they buy the 330.
Clearly, money exchanged hands somewhere.
Allow me to be blunt for just a few moments.
If this were a commercial and non-military contract, I would voice little opposition. But when you have technology that is not only ground-breaking (the US pioneered the concept of in-flight refueling!) but proprietary, I hold issue with freely providing this technology to countries not continuously and loyally espousing US interests — not to mention an entire union.
France stands not alone; these days EADS is linked to the UK, Germany, France, Spain. Airbus is primarily funded by a governmental joint powers agreement of countries.
Precisely what Boeing isn’t.
Boeing stands alone against a litany of linked countries whose sole job is to compete with and overturn offered U.S. contracts. In order to appear “fair.”
Those issues aside; let’s examine the specfics:
Q: What will this airframe do? What is its objective?
A: Refuel as many U.S. air platforms as possible on various military air configurations. Propeller-driven; turboprop; jet; helo; hybrid (Osprey);
When we speak or write of technology, it isn’t simply about the platform to be created; it’s also about the technology required to mate with the greater bulk of aircraft extant in the complete U.S. inventory. This devolves to individual craft, flight configuration, airspeed, type, platform, trim, general characteristics, minimum airspeed, flap setting, attitude, power settings, stall speed, mounting hardware, procedures. Those in receipt of this contract need to know some very specific information about some very sensitive aircraft in our inventory.
Why is it, I posit, that we would even remotely consider handing control on any military basis over to countries already completely infiltrated by our Islamist enemies — like the European Union?
This is simply, as I see it, an equation for failure.
The award to EADS/Northrop Grumman needs to be immediately overturned. For the first time ever, Boeing has made an appeal to the GAO. I can only hope our nation is favored.