Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tanker Wars - IV

Another update on this pesky little system that just can't seem to get off the ground no matter what the DOD or USAF does.

There is progress: EADS (the parent company of Airbus) has successfully refueled two aircraft at the same time from their A330 Tanker aircraft. The refueling of two Spanish F/A-18 aircraft continues many successful tests including the certification of their new flying boom. Australia is the launch customer for the Tanker Version of the A330 and should accept deliver of their first aircraft early next year.

Progress at Boeing? Well maybe not. Their 5th generation boom is giving them fits; specifically they cannot pump as much fuel through it as required by the USAF KC-X program. Seems they need more work in that area. Meanwhile, the Italian version of the KC767 has been delayed yet again. They previously had issues with the two pods' that house the Hose and Drogue assemblies out on each wing. This has been fixed however the Centerline Hose and Drogue fixture is showing signs of instability. The problem was revealed in recent flight tests with the basket deployed. I guess it does not lay still in the wind stream which would make plugging into it almost impossible. Boeing has a team on this and we should see a fix soon.

From Northrop-Grumman (NGS), in a letter dated 1 December sent to the USAF and the DOD (SECDEF) and of course the media, states that as it is currently structured the draft RFP favors a smaller airframe than what they were going to offer in the way of an Airbus A330. Without significant modifications to that RFP, NGS will not be submitting a bid. The USAF was not too willing to modify their RFP, especially the new strategy of requesting compliance to only a few items as Pass/Fail and then judging any residual benefits as a package. Thereby almost completely negating any benefit of the large size airframe. Of course, there are additional costs to having that larger airframe that must be factored into the overall decision making process. Items such as additional MILCON for larger hangers and reinforcing runways, taxiways and ramp space for the larger weight and size of the A330. But, NGS does not think these items should be factored into the decision making process.

Boeing shares were higher on this news. I guess the investors were not aware of the many technical problems that Boeing is having with their offering or that maybe they won't matter in a bidding process with only one bidder.

BT: Jimmy T sends.


Buck said...

I personally hope NGS doesn't submit a bid. I am a homer... and unapologetically so. Seeing USAF flying Airbus tankers would break my hard lil red, white, and blue heart. (And that RWB ain't of the "tricouleur" type, either)

JimmyT said...

Buck, I am of the same mind, keep it here with a wholly owned U.S. company instead of a cover company even though I like NGS a lot (they used to make the best Navy aircraft) but I don't like them covering for EADS/Airbus. Lockheed did the same for the Presidential Helo, now canceled and it was wrong with so many good Helo makers here in the U.S.

BT: Jimmy T sends.