TANKER DEAL PORTENDS MORE CO-OPERATION BETWEEN NORTHROP GRUMMAN AND EADS
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor BATTLESPACE
02 Mar 08. When the brouhaha and the possibility of a protests by Boeing and angry senators claiming American job losses subsides, the tanker decision taken yesterday will be seen in its proper context, the ebst system and value for money. (See: BATTLESPACE ALERT Vol.10 ISSUE 02, U.S. Air Force SELECTS NORTHROP GRUMMAN FOR TANKER REQUIREMENT). Boeing has said it is awaiting an explanation from the military before deciding whether or not to appeal.
Looked at in the cold light of day, the Northrop/EADS tanker win is the equivalent of American Airlines buying 167 Airbus aircraft for its fleet. The tanker and cargo wing of the USAF is the military equivalent of an airline, these aircraft will not go into the frontline offensive war front; thus, given there was little protest at any U.S. airline buying Airbus, it is likely that the protests will wane quickly as in any airline buy, U.S. content was not mandated as in this case; thus U.S. industry has benefited even thought this will be the first European fixed wing platform in USAF service since the Canberra.
To underline this, Tom Enders, President and CEO of Airbus said: “Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force can count on the full resources of Airbus to support the KC-45A tanker’s production and delivery. All four System Design and
Development aircraft are already in production. Preparatory work is now underway for our commitment to co-locate the final assembly of the tankers and A330 civilian freighter aircraft at Mobile, Alabama, creating the first new large commercial aircraft assembly facility in the U.S. in over 40 years.”
The BBC reported that ‘Lawmakers from Washington State and Kansas, which have big Boeing plants, voiced “outrage” that it had gone to a consortium including Europe’s Airbus.’
‘We are outraged that this decision taps European Airbus and its foreign workers to provide a tanker to our America military,’ Statement by congressional lawmakers from the Seattle area
It is a huge blow for Boeing, the BBC’s Vincent Dowd reports from Washington. America has around two-thirds of all such aircraft in use anywhere, and a senior figure in the company said recently if it lost this contract it could be out of the refuelling market totally for years.
Gen Arthur J Lichte, commander of the US Air Force’s Air Mobility
Command, said the winning design had many advantages over Boeing’s tanker. “More passengers, more cargo, more fuel to offload, more patients that we can carry, more availability, more flexibility and more dependability,” he said.
However Northrop is a big winner in this deal as it now gives the company its own platform for C4I platforms, which it has not had since the Hawkeye. For all the big Programs such as E-8C JSTARS and E-3 AWACS, Boeing has been the platform provider to Northrop’s systems.
But, there is a bigger prize; the win soon to be announced for the NATO AGS UAV system. The cancellation of the A-320 manned platform for NATO AGS announced last year meant that the AGS system would be an unmanned system only. Thus the AGS consortium was disbanded as was the TCAR radar project which ushered in, as many U.S. and Northrop officials wanted, (as with NATO AWACS) a U.S. only solution.
This solution, we understand, will be 6-8 NATOHawks, based on the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, carrying, importantly, the Northrop Grumman MP-RTIP radar, of which Raytheon is a major partner. Raytheon also provides a number of key systems and the ground stations.
These NATOHawks would fit neatly into the EuroHawk inventory being established with EADS for its SIGINT Mission, thus EADS would become the major partner for Northrop in the AGS Programme and European Support Centre.
Another twist could be that, in the event of Europe requiring a manned ISTAR mission, this could bring in