KC-X Last Tanker for Two Decades

KC-X Last Tanker for Two Decades

Defense analyst and consultant Rebecca Grant said today that she believes there will not be any follow-on contracts for the KC-Y or KC-Z tankers, leaving the KC-X as the final plum for Boeing and EADS to pluck for at least 20 years. Those successors would triple the size of the 179 KC-X tanker buy should they occur.

The next tanker buy would then be the replacement for the KC-10s, in roughly 20 years.

Grant also seemed to lean toward the EADS offering, which supposedly offers a higher fuel  as she argued at a press briefing that fuel offload and loiter times are crucial factors to be considered in the competition.  During this year’s Air Force Association conference EADS NA board chairman Ralph Crosby offered a very similar argument for their tanker’s superiority, saying their plane boasts substantially lower costs per gallon of fuel delivered because its planes can offload fuel at a higher rate and can carry more fuel than Boeing’s planes can.

Key to Grant’s argument is the Pacific theater. “Any air campaign will demand extremely long reach and heavy use of tankers. The distance from Guam to Taipei, for example, is 1,474 NM,” she wrote in her white paper, “Nine Secrets of the Tanker War.” In addition to distance, she said long range strike assets will be extremely thirty. A B-2 would require four refuelings of 100,000 pounds of fuel each, she writes. She says the “larger KC-Xs can handle the {Pacific bombing] scenario with four aircraft, However, the smaller notional KC-X would require a minimum of five and likely more tankers to meet both the offload and timing requirements for the mission.”

Grant appeared with retired Lt. Gen. Norm Seip, former 12th Air Force commander. I asked them who they would pick to win the competition. Grant hedged her bet, saying only that “additional fuel offload is of great value in the scenarios that concern me, especially the Pacific scenario.” Seip stayed much further away, saying he wouldn’t pick a winner “even if you put a gun to my head today.”

Seip’s comment may have been reflective of something that Grant said in her white paper: “The business rivalry between Boeing and Airbus is one of the sharpest, most unforgiving match-ups in the history of capitalism.”

Both Grant and Seip told me they do not represent either Boeing or EADS.

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Grant’s contention that “The business rivalry between Boeing and Airbus is one of the sharpest, most unforgiving match-ups in the history of capitalism.”, ignores the fact that EADS is not a capitalist company as most Americans would understand. Their reason for existence and objectives are very, very different than Boeing, who’s owners are diverse, whilst EADS’ controlling owners are 3 governments. Richard Aboulafia explains it quite well here:

EADS/Airbus is a sales driven, market share oriented company; profit, if it matters at all, is secondary, tertiary, or not a big deal.

When DOD made the decision to compete this thing, and worse, when they allowed an extension to let EADS compete alone, they did this with an extreme case of tunnel vision. Grant’s contention that both companies will survive regardless of who wins KC-X is accurate in the sense that they’ll still produce commercial aircraft. However, if Boeing loses out, we, i.e., the USA are out of the tanker manufacturing business.

Personally, I believe DOD is stacking the deck for the bigger plane, and damn the consequences.

I desagree that the USA will be out of the tanker business if they lose out on this one. Your statement has no merit, but it must be said that Boeing will sit out on a very large contract. BTW, Boeing gets quite it’s share of military contracts globally present, past and future.

So if EADS wins the tanker, what US company will be manufacturing tankers?

EADS North America will be the US company manufacturing tankers, a company whose directors and staff is from the US, is based in the US and is under US control (through a Special Security Agreement). The tanker (perhaps not the first 4 prototypes) will be built in the US from components sourced from US vendors (GE, Honeywell, etc) or globally (fuselage sections coming from europe)…but don’t Boeings section come from Italy or Japan?
The KC-45 will be a US tanker, built by Americans in the US (Alabama). Tthe US will “import” the knowledge from the exterior that it needs to ensure product is american and under american control. History will repeat itself — the JPATS competion was awarded to a little Swiss company (Pilatus…) but is now the Raytheon-Beech T-6A — a fully American airplane with its origins in a very competitive foreign design…the USAF is good at taking the best from the world and adapting it to its needs.

And that creates JOBS something this country needs…why keep 1950s hangers full of abestos, please can you people get with it and realize our war fighters need and deserve new things…If I was up for election on NOV 2 and have a base like MacDill in my district I would be all over EADS winning this and putting people to work those old hangers at MacDill need to go…

Hello Aurora it is EADS North America and they will be built in Alabama…Hello wake up the cold war is over the world has evolved, maybe you need to do the same…

Base and facility costs are factored into the proposal total cost of ownership evaluation — the USAF will get the lowest-cost solution that meet the requirements, whoever the winner is.

However, the reduced maintenance costs of the A330 as compared to the B767 (a modern platform with a plethora of commercial operators driving down the cost of spares and a healthy backlog of orders for the next decade) is NOT factored directly into the proposal total cost.

Maybe you need to be better informed. The tankers will not be “built” in Alabama, but “assembled” from parts fabricated in Europe. Not all is lost though; the EADS facility in Mobile will be equipped with a paint booth and have to capability to paint the decals.

> I asked them who they would pick to win the competition.

you need to break that into 2 questions:

1. who do they predict WILL win

2. who do they WANT to win

The contract will go to Boeing of course — keeping obsolete production lines open if far more important than military utility in America these days.

The irony is that will open the door for EADS tanker sales to the booming china market. We’ll let Aurora explain to our pilots why they are facing cheaper and better Chinese tankers over the pacific. Something about rather losing a war than 500 jobs at Boeing.

And all of this depends on the USAF. A service that in the last 10 years, hasn’t met a large procurement project that it can’t run into the ditch.
Even then, this project has to be paid for with money we don’t have.

Citation indicating that something like military tankers can be sold abroad, please.

If the Boeing KC-X meets all the mandatory requirements and comes in with a lower overall price, how then does the USAF award the contract to EADS? Bigger may be better, but the RFP says what it says. Instant GAO protest and congressional battle for the funds. Besides with 10% unemployment in the US and all things being equal, how can the USAF justify award to a French company.

And not just a private European company like Pilatus, but a state controlled European Company.

A few points,
1. Who does Ms. Grant work for? What are her qualifications?
2. What is her rational for the KC-Y not happening anytime in the next 20 years (and why wasn’t there a question mark on the end of the title?).
3. How many KC-330s are required for the mission outlined? KC-10s? KC-135Rs? Combination of KC-10s and KC-330s, Comnination of KC-10s and KC-767s.
4. How does the 767 and A330 tankers compare on all the other missions used, or is she just cherrypicking a worst case scenario. After all, we don’t go to war with China too often if at all but we fly missions every single day that don’t need the full fuel of even our existing tankers?
5. By the same logic she is using, the 767 tanker, at least the last itteration, could refuel CV-22s, while the 330 based tanker couldn’t., so clearly it is a better tanker for low intensity conflicts and SOF raids. Of course, we have KC-130 tankers for CV-22s, just as we have KC-10 tankers for longer ranged missions.
6. Finally as InterestedObserver noted, how do they compare on the actual selection criteria, not the Ms. Grant selection criteria?

I am building 767’s every day here in Florida USA. The Tanker will keep me working for years to come. Thats fact not some Euro mismosh!

Well, Ms. Grant clearly doesn’t understand how the USAF deploys its aircraft in a war. The B-2 mission she cites will not be flown from the CONUS, thus will not require the 100,000 lbs of fuel she talks about. The B-2s will be deployed to Guam, Alaska, Australia, and other places around the Pacific and Indian Oceans. She also does not consider the higher fuel burned to carry that extra fuel,thus,using her own mission, the KC-30 would require 6 tankers to offload the extra 100,000 lbs, not 4 as she said.

Further, the B-2 will not be the only bomber used in a Pacific war, the B-52, and B-1 will also make bombing strikes, as well as F-15Es, F-16s, and USN F/A-18s launched from the CVNs. The tanker force for pre-strike and post-strike refuelings will include the KC-135s, KC-10s, and the KC-X.

The USAF has said all along the KC-Y program is 20 years out, at best, so nothing new there.

On all other missions, the KC-767 equils or exceeds the KC-30 due to being about 100,000 lbs lighter, and uses less fuel burned for itself. She does not address the Boeing claim the KC-767 is more survivable, due to its better pilot caused manuverability then the computer controlled KC-30.

All that matters is a new tanker gets started soon, my vote is for a dual buy bigger to replace the KC-10 and smaller to replace to KC=135 and it doesn’t matter if its Boeing or EAD lets get this solution done and move on. The delays are causing extra cost and worst case maybe lives in the future. Two for the best price and move on.

This may all be just a moot argument if we can’t afford the new tankers to begin with … take a look at the national deficit. Emphasis on the “may” part of what I said.

The A330 will be designed, fabricated, and assemebled entirely in Europe. A token amount of work will be performed in Mobile, AL. BTW, the Cold War was with the Soviet Union, not Europe. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say you possibly thought the “A” in A330 stood for Anatov, or maybe you mistyped “Cold War” and meant WWII, which still doesn’t make a lot of sense but it’s closer. You may want to try to be better informed before you post up personal insults.

Provide ANY evidence for even a single part of your post.

Since the A330 didn’t meet the initial requirements it’s difficult to make the argument it’s the “better” tanker, much less a war winner against China. Typically, in air combat the tankers don’t go head-to-head so they won’t actually “face” each other.

Aurora, you provided a clear, spot-on summary of the problem. The U.S. is blindly accepting the notion that EADS and Boeing play by the same rules. What a bunch of bunk. The Europeans would gladly spend their last pound, dollar or euro to make Boeing irrelevant in the international aerospace market. Putting Boeing out of business would be even better. Boeing cannot compete with the combined resources of the European governments. The sooner the U.S. realizes what is happening, the better. I’m just afraid it might be too late.

I do not remember the first RFP being based on lowest cost, but best value. THis new RFP is based on lowest total ownership cost AFTER it meets all mandatory requirements, with weighting for different “Nice to Haves”.

I would believe that if it had been done. The B-2 has completed many long range missions, all of the missions made public have started and ended at Whitemen AFB. Yes it could be forward deployed to the Pacific Rim in a Crisis. If an attack on the USA(9/11) was not important enough to warrant this action, then I hardly think it would be used in a unwinnable confrontation with China over Taiwann. Plus the current plan is to remove the B-1B from service within 10years. Monday another four B-52s flew into Davis-Monthan to go to the chop shop. Buy EADS and give the service what it needs, more flexibility in all missions fuel and cargo.

What are you talking about? It’s routinely done and it’s not even a secret. We’ve forward deployed B-2’s all around the globe.

Actually, many of those B-2missions began at Whitman AFB and ended at Deigo Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean. The B-2 has a max range of some 6600 nm, the over the pole great circle distance from STL to PEK is 5862 nm (http://​gc​.kls2​.com/​c​g​i​-​b​i​n​/​g​c​?​P​A​T​H​=​s​t​l​-​p​e​k​&​a​m​p​;​R​A​N​G​E​=​&​a​m​p​;​P​A​T​H​-​C​O​L​O​R​=​&​a​m​p​;​P​A​T​H​-​U​N​I​T​S​=​n​m​&​a​m​p​;​P​A​T​H​-​M​I​N​I​M​U​M​=​&​a​m​p​;​S​P​E​E​D​-​G​R​O​U​N​D​=​&​a​m​p​;​S​P​E​E​D​-​U​N​I​T​S​=​k​t​s​&​a​m​p​;​R​A​N​G​E​-​S​T​Y​L​E​=​b​e​s​t​&​a​m​p​;​R​A​N​G​E​-​C​O​L​O​R​=​&​a​m​p​;​M​A​P​-​S​T​YLE=) So the B-2 would need just one refueling each way. The KC-135s in Alaska can now can easily do that. Also, B-2s have been foreward deployed to Deigo Garcia and Guam,as well as B-1s and B-52s. There is a plan to store all the B-1s in 10 years, but who knows if that will actually happen. The B-52 fleet will stabilize at 72 aircraft,down from 96.

EADS does not offer more flexibility, in any mission over the Boeing offer. It burns some 25%more fuel.

Why would we do that? We know both the KC-135 and KC-30 are safe and reliable for at least 30 more years. Two new tankers double maintenance, training, and spares costs, not tomention basing infastructure.

Split the contract.….get 2 production lines going ASAP to replenish our tanker fleet. Employee 100,000 Americans and end the protest and delays. Mobile, Alabama (mostly black city) and Seattle, Washington (mostly white area) are both deserving of working on this contract.

EADS has already stated that splitting the currently proposed monthly production of KC-X tankers between two lines would not be profitable at their proposed Mobile, Alabama facility. That means Congress has to authorized more money for increased monthly production or Airbus tankers 100% manufactured in Europe. Some choice!

Since splitting the contract or awarding it based on something other than the chosen criteria is not really an option, if the situation has changes such that you really want more bigger tankers, the best plan would be to award the initial contract for the KC-X, truncate the buy at say 80–100 (yes it will cost more money but at least you don’t have another case of the USAF/DoD being spanked by the GAO for not following their own selection criteria), and then start a new competition for a larger tanker. Then at least you have both sides trying to meet the USAF criteria as opposed to one side trying to sell you what you have requested (but perhaps not needed) and the other trying to sell you what it has (which may or may not be what you requested) .

Seriously where are you from?

The tanker competition may follow the C-27J path. The US military C-27J buy was originally 100 with a new production line to be built in Florida. Budget and Army/USAF politics cut the final order to 38. Alenia then dropped plans for the US production line and is now selling us the plane off the Italian line. If the KC-45 wins the tanker competition, budget considerations may limit the future buys to 10–12/year. If that happens, a full-up manufacturing line at Mobile, AL may not be justified. EADS may make the green A330 in Europe, then send it to Mobile to be fitted for the KC-45 mission (similar to the Australian MRTT program) .

Politically, the scenario you describe is next to impossible, LeoC. This ain’t the C-27J program.

I say keep kc-135 instead of buying foreign aircraft. The Boeing B-52H bomber is flying combat for m any years &
they have not replace it and I hope that they do not. As the saying goes ” Old Soldiers never die they just fade away.” I just hope this one don’t.

The B-52s have pretty much been rebuilt. The KC-135 has not had that luxury however and many components are now out of production.

The problem is there really is no reason getting a modern tanker based off a civilian airliner like the 767 or 777 should be so complicated. We have done this with plenty of different aircraft in the past.

But there is a reason: airbus. Read the link to the Richard Aboulafia article I posted above.

Boeing sends off shore as many jobs as EADS would. EADS would build the plane in Mississippi!
JOBS, JOBS JOBS, but in Mississippi, not Washington, that’s the difference!

The A330 cost MORE to maintain than the 767.

There is still potential for further 767 commercial (& military) sales — with slow 787–3 sales, Boeing has stated that it could drop it & go with new 767s instead.

Even without any new sales, commercial (& military) 767s are going to be around for quite some time still.

I see you have no understanding of aircraft life OR the realities of operating old aircraft even if they theoretically have significant life left.

The KC-10 production line should be reconstituted and the Air Force could far exceed their tanker needs now and far into the future with the most dependable, cost effective tanker ever produced.

Boeing already said if there were an RFP that called for more capacity and range, they would bid the KC-777.
They are ready. It’s the USAF who has to make up its mind what it wants and stop changing its mind in the middle of the award grading. That’s why the GAO threw out the USAF decision last time. The USAF didn’t follow their own rules.
By the way it’s the exact same reason that Boeing’s win of the CSAR-X *also* got thrown out by the GAO. The USAF unfairly awarded extra credit to Boeing’s Chinook for range and capacity, when it wasn’t called for in the original RFP and all the other competitors bidded smaller helicopters.
Write a good, clear RFPand you’ll get good bids. Hopefully USAF learned their lesson and this time the KC-X award will finally go smooth. I’m sure that’s why USAF is delaying their award– they’re making sure every i is dotted and t crossed and getting multiple looks at it to make sure there are no flaws in their decision making.


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