The White House issued a 394 page report on what defense programs are subject to sequestration. The USAF tanker replacement–a program won by Boeing in a bitter contest–is on the hit list (PDF Page 274, document page Appendix B 38). It’s something called the Replacement Transfer Fund, Appropriation Discretionary. Whatever all this means.
The current Air Force One (all two of them) entered service in 1990 and 1991 and are based on the Boeing 747-200. The time appears nearing for a replacement.
Defense News reports that the USAF has added replacements in its future planning.
Given the long history of the Secret Service demanding more than two engines, a replacement would almost certainly be the Boeing 747-8I.
It now appears the USAF will announce the tanker contract Thursday, Feb. 24, at 5pm EST. Expectations are that EADS will be awarded the contract, but there have been so many twists and turns that we’re not predicting the outcome.
The greater question will be, Will there be a protest? As we reported Monday, EADS says it won’t protest if it loses provided there is nothing egregious in the selection process. Boeing has clearly been laying the groundwork for a protest, but neither is it certain Boeing will do so if it loses.
Here is the timeline of what happens next:
- The announcement is made.
- The Department of the Air Force has 10 calendar days to brief the losing side.
- The losing side can request an accelerated debrief.
- The losing competitor then has 10 calendar days from the time of the debrief to file the actual protest with the GAO.
- The GAO then has up to 100 calendar days to rule on the protest (they may take less time).
- The results can be: 1.) GAO finds no merit and throws out the entire protest; 2.) GAO sustains part of the protest; 3.) GAO sustains all of the protest.
- The GAO does not rule on whether or not the Department chose the right aircraft, which aircraft was better, etc. It only rules on whether the proper process was followed during the source selection.
- The Department can then accept the ruling and provide a timeline for how they will address the issues the GAO ruled on and determine whether and how it impacts the outcome. Or, they can note the GAO ruling but proceed as originally planned.
With Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) set to hold the tanker hearing on Thursday (Jan. 27), it is clear the USAF continues to drag on its decision in the KC-X competition, which was expected this month. It now looks like March.
We’re going to ask a question that may be considered by some to be ridiculous on its face (and we’re not entirely sure it isn’t) but which, given all the twists and turns, starts-and-stops, hissy fits and more that’s happened in the painful saga of USAF tankers, we might ask, Why not ask this question?
Is failure an option?
The USAF and EADS need to come forward with full details to fully explain the latest cock-up (a British term, not an obscene one) in which the Air Force mistakenly sent EADS and Boeing proprietary information about the other company’s KC-X submission.
EADS, the Air Force and Boeing say that when EADS and Boeing discovered the error, the companies began a procedure that has been in place for years to seal up the files and computers and to notify the USAF of the error. The Air Force initially said, in essence, “no harm, no foul.” But then in classic Wikileaks fashion, information dribbled out bit-by-bit that there was more to the story than the Air Force–and EADS–let on.
At a press conference–which we were at–EADS North America CEO Sean O’Keefe gave a detailed response to questions about the matter. But within days, it was charged by Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson that EADS had actually opened the proprietary file but Boeing had not. He did not cite sources for his information, and his close ties to Boeing immediately raised the suspicion that Boeing leaked this information to him.
Defense Procurement has this item looking at the possibilities of Airbus selling the A400M to other markets, including the USA.
The saga never ends.
Now a start-up Indian cargo airline, Flyington Freighters, says it may sue Airbus over delays in delivering the A330-200F, for which it is a launch customer, because Airbus is waiting to win the USAF KC-X competition.
In a rare confluence of timing, Boeing and Northrop Grumman issued press releases on the same topic at about the same time. Here they are, in their entirety; our commentary follows after the Northrop release:
Boeing KC-767 Tanker: Sized Right for the Fight
Wednesday May 7, 12:23 pm ET
According to the Statement of Objectives for the KC-X program, the primary mission of the new tanker would be aerial refueling rather than hauling cargo or transporting passengers. In order to meet the documented mission requirements, Boeing offered the KC-767, which efficiently fulfills the vital mission of a mid-sized aerial refueling fleet while also exceeding the highest requirements for airlift, passenger and aeromedical evacuation capabilities.
“Tanker flight crews are asked to bring the right amount of fuel to the fight in the most efficient, reliable manner, and the KC-767 meets that fundamental requirement,” said Mark McGraw, vice president, Boeing Tanker Programs. “Asking these aircrews to fly longer missions in larger, less survivable planes with more fuel capacity than needed and vast amounts of unused cargo and passenger space just doesn’t add up.
“The Boeing KC-767 exceeded the requirements in a manner that still kept the plane right-sized and efficient,” McGraw said. “Our competition likes to talk about offering more, more, more — but in reality, the KC-30 will cost more to operate, more to maintain, and more to house, with the U.S. taxpayer footing the bill.”
A larger plane — like the KC-30 tanker offered by Northrop Grumman and EADS — simply results in wasted capacity, wasted efficiency and wasted taxpayer dollars.
The contrasts between the KC-767 and the KC-30 are notable and worth considering in determining the appropriate tanker for the mission:
-- Fuel Capacity -- The historical average offload on a tanker mission is 60,000 to 70,000 pounds of fuel. The Air Force fuel offload requirement was set at 94,000 pounds of fuel at 1,000 nautical miles, comfortably above the historical average. The KC-767 exceeded the 94,000-pound requirement by 20 percent while remaining within the optimum size for medium tanker operations. The KC-30 fuel capacity exceeded that requirement by 50 percent -- meaning more than half of its fuel load would be unused during an average mission. The result: a large tanker that burns more fuel and requires significantly higher costs in maintenance and support. -- Cargo/Passenger Capacity -- In 2006, the Air Force moved less than 1 percent of its cargo and passengers in tankers. The KC-767 does offer significantly more cargo and passenger capacity than the KC-135, but not at the expense of airplane size or efficiency. Again, the KC-30 carries more passengers and slightly more cargo based on weight, but with a bigger, less survivable and more costly plane. -- Aeromedical Evacuation -- The Air Force Request for Proposals set an objective requirement of being able to carry 24 litters and 26 ambulatory patients. The KC-767 carries 30 litters and 67 ambulatory patients, far exceeding the highest requirement. The Air Force praised the KC-767's superior aeromedical crew stations, its ability to generate oxygen onboard, and the power provided for aeromedical crew systems. The KC-30 again offered more quantity with less quality and less survivability.
Setting The Record Straight On Northrop Grumman’s Tanker
Today’s Boeing ad in The Washington Post, “The Tanker Decision. Oversized Aircraft, Oversized Costs. It Doesn’t Add Up” raises a fundamental question: Who should decide the capabilities of the KC-45 refueling aircraft, and how it should be used, the Air Force, or Boeing? Moreover, Boeing continues to make up facts to suit its arguments.
In its request to the Government Accountability Office to throw out Boeing’s contract challenge, the Air Force noted that “Boeing’s protest misconstrues the solicitation evaluation terms for aerial refueling, and its interpretation creates a patent ambiguity” regarding what the Air Force wanted.
The Air Force stated in its proposal request that it sought a versatile, multi-role tanker that would meet or exceed its requirements for both refueling and airlift. Boeing argues that its tanker is good enough for refueling – and, based on past operations, additional capability was not needed. But the Air Force made clear it saw great value in Northrop Grumman’s KC-45 because it could carry more fuel, operate from more bases, and transport more materiel, troops and cargo – and evacuate more wounded soldiers from the battle theater. While Boeing’s offer was looking at the past, the Air Force’s selection of Northrop Grumman is all about the future.
The Air Force was abundantly clear about its desire for a versatile tanker throughout the bidding process. In December 2007, Defense Daily interviewed TRANSCOM Combatant Commander Gen. Norton Schwarz and wrote, “The bottom line, Schwartz told Defense Daily, is that unlike tankers of old, the KC-X aircraft will be multi-mission machines. ‘We need, for the benefit of the joint team, to get as much out of that as we can.’” The Air Force also made this clear in the RFP, and in the entire military did the same in a White Paper published a month later. Boeing disparages this recommendation, arguing it knows better than the Air Force what will be needed. Why does Boeing keep trying to redefine the requirement?
Boeing continues to distort the truth even though the company has the real data, claiming that Northrop Grumman’s KC-45 will burn $30 billion more in fuel. To reach that number, they made up their own assumptions and their own formulas. The fact is, the Air Force concluded – in a document provided to both companies – that the KC-45 is actually 6 percent more fuel efficient than Boeing’s proposed aircraft and the life cycle costs of both aircraft was about the same. Who should we believe – the United States Air Force or Boeing?
Boeing also claims that its proposed aircraft would have $19 billion less in infrastructure and maintenance costs. In fact, the Air Force determined that the life cycle cost of both aircraft, which includes these factors, was about the same. Who should we believe—the Air Force or Boeing?
Boeing then claims its can provide more aircraft to battle theaters – conveniently ignoring an important factor in the Air Force’s decision:
Northrop Grumman’s larger, more versatile aircraft can complete the entire host of combat scenarios using fewer aircraft than Boeing – something the Air Force found was a significant value to taxpayers AND battle commanders.
Finally, Boeing tries to bolster its faulty arguments by selectively pointing to criteria included in a 2002 tanker decision. Not only is that document outdated, but it relates to a contracting scandal that led to the contract being competitively bid. Relying on that outdated document, Boeing claims that the Air Force “and taxpayer get an oversized aircraft with oversized costs.”
In fact, the Air Force made clear in the document explaining its selection that “Northrop Grumman’s offer was clearly superior to that of Boeing’s for…aerial refueling and airlift. Additionally, Northrop Grumman’s…superior aerial refueling capability enables it to execute…with 22 fewer aircraft…an efficiency of significant value of the government.”
The last 24 hours have been busy news days on the tanker and the 787.
Reuters published a story yesterday about the Air Force calling the CEOs of Boeing and Northrop Grumman on the carpet for the vitriolic nature of the protest. Boeing has been engaged in a high profile advertising campaign that many view as a scorched earth approach toward the Air Force. This was the subject of an in-depth column we did last week on our Corporate Website.
Although Boeing kicked off the latest round with its post-protest ad campaign, Northrop hasn’t distinguished itself, either. In e-blasts, Northrop’s language is as over-the-top as is Boeing’s rhetoric. Both companies, which by their nature fall into the “world class” category, ought to be embarrassed by their respective efforts.
Other tanker news in the last 24 hours: US Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential candidate who killed the Boeing KC-767 tanker lease deal in 2004 and who has been blamed (unfairly, in our view) by Democrats for killing Boeing’s chances this time around, told the parties to “get on with it,” as outlined in this report by The Moble Press-Register.
The Citizens Against Government Waste awarded US Reps. Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) the “Porker of the Month” award (named for pork-barrel projects, a US term for wasteful government spending) for their efforts to kill the USAF tanker contract with Northrop Grumman. This makes a good sound bite, but The Washington Post previously reported that Northrop helps fund CAGW. Northrop did not confirm or deny the funding story when The Post inquired. So take this one with a grain of salt.
On the 787 front, Jon Ostrower last night obtained a memo to employees from Boeing CEO James McNerney, discussing the 787 program and the production model. Ostrower’s Flightblogger has the write-up and the memo. Dominic Gates at The Seattle Times followed with his story and copy of the memo in today’s paper.
Boeing’s first quarter earnings call is tomorrow at 10:30 EDT. The webcast may be found here. Boeing is expected to reaffirm its 2008 earnings guidance (as it did on the program update), but maybe there will be some information about penalties and lost/deferred revenue. We provided an analyst estimate recap in our own estimate on revenue lost through 2013 in our column last week on our Corporate website. The analyst estimates of penalties range from $800 million to $5 billion. Our guesstimate on revenue loss through 2013 is about $30 billion. Extra production costs are on top of these numbers.
Steve Trimble of Flight International has this bizarre piece. It’s about the Joint Cargo Aircraft, the C27J, which is being acquired by the Army and the US Air Force. It turns out the Army is paying half that of the Air Force.
As an aside, this is an Italian airplane made by Alenia (the same company involved in the Boeing 787 program). This European company partnered with a US company to make the big to the Pentagon. This sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The US company partner is–Boeing.