Friday, January 28, 2011

Tanker Wars - Update

Time for some KC-X Tanker news. The original a time frame for the award of this long awaited program has slipped into February however; this could slip as well since the Senate took up hearings on the program.

Specifically the Senate is looking at the inadvertent release of proprietary cost data from one bidder to another. So, no telling how much this meddling will cost the program. Now, that is not to play down the seriousness of a release of this nature but to keep the wheels on this apple cart you have to find out if the data actually caused comprise. A forensic examination of the computer system used by an EADS Administrative employee was conducted by the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center. They determined that a single page in one document was opened for 3 minutes. EADS claims that the people only looked at the data for about 15 seconds and claim no harm no foul. But they did move this person to another area not related to the KC-45 program which is the aircraft in their offer to the Air Force. Boeing testified that they did not open their set of data which was supposed to go to EADS. It seems their Administrative employee was smart enough to look at the labeling on the CD’s and see that it was proprietary to EADS and stopped. Bigger story here if you want.

In other news Boeing bowed out of the Indian Indigenous Tanker competition claiming they wanted to focus on the USAF KC-X program. Yeah, maybe they don’t want to get into another pissing contest over the size ambiguity in these requests for Tanker aircraft. The two aircraft the KC-767 and the KC-45 (based on an Airbus A330) are nowhere near the same size standard and since Airbus had so much help funding the building of the baseline aircraft it is very hard for Boeing to compete. I can understand that, if you are given the airframe for free you undercut anyone else trying to bid against you that had to pay for their fuselage out of their own pocket, and since no one seems willing to penalize Airbus for these illegal subsidies (to the tune of $200 Billion dollars, per the WTO) then you should walk. (WTO Story here)

Over in EADS land they had some interesting news. During a test of their A330 MRTT aircraft their much vaunted advanced Boom fell off. While in contact with an Spanish Air Force F-16. Both aircraft sustained damage and both returned safely to mother earth. I am sure the flight suit in one aircraft had to be changed, when you see that huge boom apparatus falling on you while you are at 15,000 feet I am sure you leave spots in the poopy suit. From Flightglobal is the big story but here is a quote from airbus:

”The boom detached at the root of the structural mast," says Airbus Military, responding to questions from Flightglobal. "There is no damage to the boom attachment, nor is there any significant damage to the [aircraft's] fuselage," it adds.

Photo from Airbus/EADS.

Meanwhile later in the month: “The Airbus Military A330 MRTT successfully passed fuel to receiver aircraft using the Fuselage Refueling Unit (FRU) for the first time.” (Source is Flightglobal, again) The FRU is the hose and drogue unit that is mounted on the aircrafts fuselage centerline (it is also equipped with wing mounted hose and drogue units). This is good news; Airbus had been having a lot of trouble getting the FRU to work. I guess getting that pesky Boom thingie out of the way really helped.

Well, I am sure Lawyers are circling just waiting to be called in and for Protest fire support in both camps. Even with an award today this program is far from over.

Shame on the DOD and USAF for doing such a lousy job all around on this program. Like the vampire that it has been it is almost time to put a steak into it and end all the misery.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Thanks to Great site for up to the minute aerospace and military aviation news.

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