Update, Mar. 19, 230PM PDT: Just when you thought this couldn’t get any weirder, Russia announced it plans to submit a bid to the KC-X, according to The Wall Street Journal:
In another twist to the ongoing saga to replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of aerial refueling tankers, United Aircraft Corp. of Russia is planning to bid on the $40 billion contract, according to a person familiar with its plans.
United Aircraft, an aerospace consortium owned by the Russian government, will seek to offer a tanker version of its Ilyushin Il-96 wide-body jetliner, dubbed the Il-98, this person said. The planes would be largely built in Russia, and assembled in the U.S., this person says. United Aircraft will partner with a “small U.S. defense contractor,” which will be renamed United Aircraft Corp. America Inc., this person said, declining to name that contractor.
Update, Mar. 19, 600AM PDT:
DOD says it might extend the deadline for submitting a bid so EADS can do so if it wants. Here is one story.
Update, Mar. 17, 900AM PDT:
This AP story cites EADS ambitions in the US, but buried toward the bottom is a new statement from EADS CEO Louis Gallois and EADS North America Sean O’Keefe about the prospect of EADS submitted a bid for the KC-X. Here is the excerpt:
Earlier this month, EADS pulled out of bidding for the Pentagon refueling tanker contract, saying a smaller plane offered by rival Boeing Co. appeared to be the front-runner. EADS, which had partnered with Northrop Grumman for the 179-tanker order, has criticized the contract as anticompetitive.
“The U.S. Air Force will not have the most modern, most capable airplane,” Gallois said. “It’ll be the first time the British, the Australians have a better airplane than the Americans.”
Gallois said it’s unlikely that EADS will submit a new bid for the tanker contract.
Instead, EADS will move to make other deals in the U.S. Building its presence here through acquisitions may bolster its case when bidding for national defense contracts, but “that would not be the objective,” said Sean O’Keefe, CEO of EADS North America.
But: comments added in our Comment section after the above posting suggest that EADS is still considering a bid if the deadline to do so is extended, and DOD might.
Won’t this ever go away?
Update, Mar. 16, 830AM PDT:
Airbus received EASA certification for the A330MRTT. Here’s an excerpt from the Bloomberg story that moved just a short time ago:
Airbus Tanker Gets Civil Certification From European Regulator
By Andrea Rothman
March 17 (Bloomberg) — European Aeronautic, Defence and Space Co.’s Airbus unit won civil certification for a military tanker version of its A330, putting the plane a step closer to maturity before it enters service in Australia by year-end.
Certification from the commercial aviation regulator, European Air Safety Agency, means handling qualities of the plane and on-board systems correspond to civil certifications, which are more stringent than military requirements. Besides refueling other planes in mid-flight, the A330 tanker could carry as many as 300 troops.
EASA’s approval is the first civil certification ever extended to a tanker and transport aircraft developed in Europe.
Update, March 15, 300PM PDT:
Richard Aboulafia has a particularly entertaining commentary in his latest monthly newsletter.
He also has a more prosaic but thoughtful commentary here.
Update, March 15, 900AM PDT:
This news report out of Europe updates the situation, in typical military fashion: Hurry up and Wait.
Information is coming out late today (March 12) that EADS may try and bid for the KC-X tanker contract after all. The Pentagon may extend the deadline for bidding to accommodate EADS, George Talbot of The Mobile Press-Register tells us. He will be posting his own story at http://www.al.com shortly.
Here are the stories: