Boeing v. EADS-Northrop Grumman

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.
BZ

10 thoughts on “Boeing v. EADS-Northrop Grumman

  1. We MUST buy American at EVERY opportunity…

    And I guess that makes ME a total hypocrite dammit, I am buying that new Springfield XD-45 Tactical, and it’s made FOR Springfield, in Croatia…

    Damn…

  2. BZ, I think that your suspicions about money changing hands is probably spot on. Somebody’s palm got greased…nothing like buying an inferior product, with less support infrastructure.

    Common sense must be stomped out whenever it flares up! Perhaps that should be a new DOD motto…

  3. Ranando & TF: for the first time in a long time I actually laughed out loud when I read your comment interaction. Thanks, I needed that!

    JustJohn: frightening that we are beginning to undermine our military. What happens when we need tankers (or even THAT AIRFRAME for other uses) and the French are on strike? Or EADS pulls from the contract for whatever reason?

    Americaneocon: thanks, and Happy Easter in return!

    BZ

  4. I know, lets hand a contract out to a company that has troubles designing and delivering their main product, which is aircraft!

    Yes, this is a sure ‘winner’ to show how ‘open’ we are to let Germany and France figure out how they can slow down Northrop in making and delivering this thing. I am sure some ‘European’ scheduling and engineering will work wonders just as it has on other Airbus craft.

    ‘Ah the German engineers? Went to the beer hall on their unscheduled day off, plus they are taking a week of their 3 month vacation time… and those French administrators? Oh, had a full two hours of work and went to smoke some Galois and quaff cabernet for the afternoon, expect them to be in about when they were today at 10am…’

    Yes, lets hold our re-fueling capability hostage to such things… the US staff will work its heart out to make good on the Euro-promises, I’m sure.

    Boeing did try to sneak a swifty on the USAF which good ole Johnny Mac stopped to the tune of $6 billion, which he will crow about at every turn. I’m *sure* that there was *no* pressure on the contracting review staff to take *that* into consideration.

    Yes, indeedy.

    I’m sure that no Senator running for President with a military record and such ability to sniff out military waste had *any* influence on this at all…

    Uh-huh.

    Believe that and I have a great bridge in Brooklyn for you.

  5. The two most reliable aircraft presently in the Air Force inventory are the B-52 and KC-135. The Buff’s flying now are the “H” models built between 1960 and 1962. The KC-135 was built between 1956 and 1965. Although both aircraft have gone through extensive modifications to keep their airframes current, they are still flying and will most likely outlive us all. The B-52′s are projected to be flying well into the 2020′s. Both aircraft are built by Boeing.

    I spent 26 years active duty Air Force maintaining the Heavies: B-52, KC-135, C-141, and B-2. One thing we knew about the Heavies and that was if you wanted an air worthy airframe that was reliable and simple to maintain, you wanted a Boeing aircraft.

    BobF

  6. EADS does have a refueling version in service for the Ausies. But to me that is not the issue. The issue is that the Airbus is less fuel efficient and is larger than the contract specified. The flight controls STILL have problems (the rudders falling off like the NY crash not long after 911, the automatic landing/ takeoff controls like the recent crash in I think it was Indonesia). Just what we need is an OOPS like those with a full load of fuel. I am not a particular fan of Boeing but they are what we a re left with since Northrup and Lockheed cant seem to put out an aircraft anywhere near on time or on budget or according to the initial contract. B-2 example half the number of planes at twice the cost over 3 times the delivery length. AND ITS BEING PHASED OUT.

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