EADS/US KC-X TANKER ‘VERY WELL ALONE’
By Howard Wheeldon
28 Apr 10. With a resounding clenched fist raised atop Dover’s cliffs David Low’s fine drawing that featured an ordinary citizen pointing the way to defending itself against tyranny epitomised better than most the challenge that Britain faced back in 1940. Certainly the drawing reflected the public mood following the fall of France that year. Seventy years on I make no apology for using the caption that accompanied the Low drawing “Very Well, Alone” as also being wholly appropriate to describe EADS decision to rebid the $40bn US KC-X aerial refuelling tanker program ‘alone’.
The detail behind this long running competition is well known so I will not repeat it here although I have enclosed previous commentary that may be helpful in understanding the background. Whilst the specifications of the program have changed since the previous program award – a factor that led EADS original partner Northrop Grumman to note that such revisions would likely ‘insure’ that Boeing’s smaller, cheaper modified 767 tanker proposal would win suffice to say that in terms of aircraft numbers the requirement detail of the KC-X program has remained at 179 aircraft. As before EADS will challenge a revised and adapted Boeing 767 entrant with its already well proven A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft. Along with an additional proposal to build the A330-200 commercial freighter aircraft in the US EADS intends to build both aircraft at a new plant to be located at Mobile, Alabama line.
For services rendered to the greater good of free, open and fair international competition I for one am particularly pleased that despite the reversal of odds since the earlier competition awarded KC-X to the EADS/Northrop Grumman combination that EADS has decided to rebid. The odds on winning may have changed but the intent, reasoning, having potentially the best aircraft for the mission, best through life costs, taxpayer value plus US job creation has not. Those involved on the outside of this program looking in and often all to ready to criticise need to be aware that EADS North America is a US company run by US staff. It should thus be seen for exactly what it is. The bottom line is that should EADS win KC-X the company will create thousands of new US jobs both directly and through a much enlarged supply chain. IT would also provide the US military with a proven aircraft not only very much up to the task but also provide US taxpayer with all the benefits of a dual sourced competition award process.
My hope for a free and open competition that will decide which is the best aircraft for the USAF mission has been strengthened by evidence that the US Dept of Defense encouraged EADS to bid. The pity is that the background for the renewed competition remains clouded by ongoing political manoeuvrings. What we must hope is that we do not see too much evidence of commercial bullying and intimidation through this competition and that whoever wins does so only on the complete merits of the proposals that they put forward.
Meanwhile it is with some concern that I noted Democrat Washington State Congressman Norman Dicks telling media that “it was very good news that Northrop Grumman had quit the program adding that “we [Boeing] can now go forward with the program]. In other reported comments the same Senator is reported as saying that “he hoped that US companies don’t partner with you [EADS] adding apparently that he hoped the company did not bid. EADS has taken such comments on the chin and will now forge ahead with a new bid. Like many other I too have a great relationship with Boeing and well recognise that they too produce great planes. But in difficult economic times such as these it is surely the duty of the US government and all of us to not only to ensure the US military gets the best plane for the mission but also that the taxpayer gets the best value for money over the anticipated long produ