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Boeing May Opt Out Of Rebidding For KC-X


Well-known member
Aug 13, 2002
Total Time
Report: Boeing May Opt Out Of Rebidding For KC-X
Tue, 12 Aug '08
Calculated Ploy... Or Capitulation?

Representatives with Boeing KC-767 tanker team met with Pentagon officials Tuesday to go over specifications for the oft-contested KC-X contract bid... but there are murmurs Boeing may opt to cede the competition to rival Northrop Grumman and EADS.
Citing reports in an industry trade journal, the Wichita Eagle states Boeing may be considering withdrawing from the competition outright, in response to the Pentagon's revised list of criteria for the bid. As ANN reported, those specs, issued by the Pentagon last week, place greater emphasis on aerial refueling duties, and capabilities above and beyond the Air Force's original plan.
That bodes well for Northrop Grumman and EADS, whose KC-30 offers greater fuel capacity than the smaller Boeing KC-767. The KC-30 won the original KC-X bid in February, but Boeing protested to the Government Accountability Office on the grounds the Air Force showed favoritism to the larger aircraft, despite the fact the KC-767 more closely adhered to the Air Force's original proposal.
The GAO upheld that protest... and in July, the Pentagon threw open the bid once again, although on an accelerated schedule. The Pentagon also stripped decision-making authority from the USAF.
Boeing says it will wait for the Pentagon to release its final requirements for KC-X, before making a decision on whether to back out. Officials with the Department of Defense met with both Boeing and Northrop/EADS on Tuesday, ahead of the deadline this week for each party to submit their revised bids.
This could be a calculated ploy on Boeing's part; after all, Northrop/EADs made a similar threat to back out of the original KC-X competition in January 2007. Those parties later agreed to bid the contract, after the Air Force added language to the plan, that considered the KC-30's greater fuel capacity as a selection point.
Should Boeing opt out of the deal, it would leave the Pentagon with the admittedly easier -- but politically thorny -- choice to award the de facto sole-source contract to Northrop.
The Pentagon could also once again revise the requirements for KC-X to give Boeing greater parity, or time to develop a larger 777-based offering for the contract. Considering that Northrop/EADS already won a recent competition, however -- combined with the USAF's desperate need for new tankers to replace aging KC-135s -- it's less likely the DoD would take that route.
As for Boeing, it has other options, too. The company could protest the Pentagon's final Request for Proposals, or opt to bid for the contract anyway... hoping to either win, or force another stalemate on protest should Northrop win once again.
Kansas Congressman Todd Tiahrt, a staunch Boeing advocate, told the Eagle he met recently with Boeing executives and told them "one of the options they have to consider is just walking away from the deal."
But Tiahrt has a hole-card to play in that scenario, as well. Even if Northrop wins the second bid -- outright, or in competition -- the House and Senate defense appropriation committees "could just cut the funding off until they do it right," he said.


Well-known member
Oct 16, 2005
Total Time
Now they might be looking at the 767-400 or 777...


SOURCE:Flight International
Boeing tanker gambit could force KC-X award delay
By Stephen Trimble

The US Department of Defense's goal to avoid further delays and award the KC-X tanker contract before year-end faces a key new challenge.
Although Boeing had the option to boycott the revived competition, the company has instead chosen a strategy that may force the DoD to extend the deadline for revised proposals.

Boeing has hinted that it may propose a larger aircraft than the 767-200ERX offered in the original competition, saying it is looking at "configuration options" for its latest bid. Boeing's options include new tanker versions of the 767-400ER and the 777-200LR.

At the same time, Boeing officials also complain about the quickness of the DoD's schedule for the second round of bids, which includes a one-week review period for the draft request for proposals that ended on 15 August, and a 45-day turnaround for the final proposal due by 1 October.

The DoD established the schedule to complete contract award before the Bush administration leaves office in late January. Even a slight delay during the evaluation period is likely to push contract award beyond that deadline.

Boeing is being forced to consider offering a larger aircraft to better compete with the Northrop KC-30B.
The US Air Force selected the KC-30B on the basis that it offered the most fuel offload capacity. After the Government Accountability Office overturned that decision for not complying with the terms of the USAF solicitation, DoD officials amended the request for proposals to award official credit for offering more fuel offload capacity.

Northrop's team is clearly approving of both the new evaluation criteria and schedule.
"We look forward to submitting our proposal within the timeline established by the defence department," the company says. "With the current fleet approaching the half-century mark in age, our men and women in uniform should not be asked to wait any longer."

Boeing considered offering the KC-777 in the first competition, but instead decided to propose the KC-767 after reviewing the USAF's evaluation terms.
Previously, Boeing executives had ruled out the 767-400ER because of concerns about tail-strike for the refuelling boom, but company executives have recently said this problem could be overcome.

Dave Bowman, Boeing's vice-president of tanker programmes, says the tail-strike issue can be resolved by requiring the aircraft to rotate on take-off at a shallower angle. The trade-off is a longer take-off roll, he adds.


Active member
Feb 12, 2006
Total Time
It seems to me, as an old SAC warrior, that the A.F. is missing the boat on this one. Isn't there still a possible nuclear mission to be done? That means that the tanker needs to be able to do it's mission even if it loses an engine. These 2-engine off-the-shelf remods won't work in that scenario.
I think what Boeing should be doing is designing an MD-11 variation with a really cool, tricked-out third engine cowling that can cover the middle engine in cruise. The 3rd engine would be great for getting the heavy fuel and cargo loads airbourne and then be shut down in-flight. The cowling would get rid of the drag but could be re-opened so the 3rd engine could be restarted in flight in case another engine failed; thus ensuring the EWO mission.

Just my thoughts.. Maybe somebody could pass it on to Boeing and the A.F.


Mouse and Keyboard Pilot
Jul 18, 2005
Total Time
The AF did miss the boat!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but back in the late 80's Boeing offer instead of re-engining and re-skinning the wings on the KC-135s a final version of the KC-707 tanker with CFM-56 engines and new avionics at the same cost as the retrofit. But the AF didn't go that route. Instead we placed how many different modifications on the 135 not to mention the latest, PACER CRAP. So here we are 20+ yrs later looking for a new tanker.

To answer your question 135Drvr, talk of the EWO mission has been mentioned, but you have to remember that it's the old MAC guys at the top now. So it's not about AR it's really about how much cargo can that baby hold!
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and don't call me Shirley
Dec 1, 2007
Total Time
I think the concern for the EWO mission is pretty well evidenced by the EMP hardening of PACER CRAG.

Mother MAC's love for the cargo capacity of the KC-10 is pretty well established. I think if they could figure out a way they would move the horizontal stab to the top of the vertical fin so it would be a true T-tail.

The AF has also rewritten the RFP for the KC-X to further skew it in favor of the Airbus and apparently the cargo hauling capacity is more important than how many booms we can put in the sky. You'd think they'd have learned from the C-17 replacement of the C-141. You can carry twice as much, but only in one direction. That was about the time the -135 started to pick up the aeromed mission. Hmm...

Boeing offered a cockpit door forward replacement for the -135, including an integrated avionics suite and (gasp!) an autopilot and flight director that talk to each other!

"Oh, no thanks," the AF said. "We'll just take these individual pieces of avionic equipment, use various digital/analog converters that work with varying degrees of success and make all of these parts work together as best we can. But thanks anyway."

I'll bet the biggest reason they didn't go with it was because it would have eliminated the FD-109...and we can't have a tanker without an FD-109. Probably why Boeing lost the bid this time - didn't have one in there.