Breaking: Boeing wins KC-X, NewGen 767 becomes KC-46A


Here’s our initial story on the Pentagon decision to award the KC-X tanker contact to Boeing and the NewGen 767. Follow Flightglobal for all the latest on the award.

29 Responses to Breaking: Boeing wins KC-X, NewGen 767 becomes KC-46A

  1. PIPSQUEEK February 24, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    Well thats a huge surprise, was there any doubt it?
    So much for an open bidding process!!

  2. CM February 24, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    @Pipskqeek – The 767 won on price. In fact there was a lot of doubt that would be the outcome. Most industry experts predicted EADS would beat Boeing’s bottom-line price.

    I take it from your comments you believe the bidding process was rigged? It’s hard for some to accept that Boeing could win on a level playing field, isn’t it? Turns out that’s just what happened.

  3. snogglethorpe February 24, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    Just because the side you didn’t favor won, doesn’t mean the process wasn’t open. The bidding process was extremely strict this time due to the last two screwups, and there’s much less room and patience for political horse-trading. If there’s anything fishy about the award, it’ll come out soon enough — but so far, there’s no reason to assume there is.

    Hmm, better go over and check The DEW Line… the airbus fanboys over there are going to be freaking out about this (cue aeroxavier 1…2…3…)…

  4. CBL February 24, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    The surprise was when they dare to select the better plane.

    This is now just a normal decision: politic first, mission after

  5. snogglethorpe February 24, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    @CBL: Got any proof, or is this just the usual Airbus fanboy whining…?

  6. Esker Curve February 24, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    I watched the award webcast, and I have to say, I was struck by one thing in the announcement: that Boeing had underbid Airbus by more than 1%. Since Boeing’s price was 1% lower than Airbus’, that means that any additional credit that the Airbus plane would have gotten from performance or range or fuel capacity would be eliminated. So basically, Boeing lowballed the bid.

    That is not surprising. Boeing has bid many times on military contracts to a zero-profit margin, and I’m almost confident that that is what the company did.

  7. iamlucky13 February 25, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    I agree with snogglethorpe – there’s too much scrutiny on this round for politicians to change the selection from what the Air Force’s criteria dictate.

    But if you read many of the statements various politicians have made, that isn’t stopping them from claiming they did, which frankly is amazing. It takes a lot of gall to claim to have undermined the fairness of $35 billion contract.

    However, it also should be pointed out that politics did affect the process of setting the criteria.

    In particular, I found out today the Air Force was originally going to judge cost based on 25 years of operating costs, but Congress persuaded them to use 40 years.

    Of course, this is sensible, as the KC-135′s will all be over 50 years old by the time the first KC-46 enters service, but since the deciding factor today was cost, it is relevant to know.

  8. PMS February 25, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    You mean “better = bigger”?
    You should read the KC-767 vs KC-45 analysis by Stephen Trimble to learn that selection of a tanker is not a “Monopoly” game, but a strategic problem.

  9. John February 25, 2011 at 4:45 am #

    This was in 2007 and we will see these statements from Boeing about delays for the KC-767 for many more years to come. But I agree, 1% is an enormous saving over 40 years considering the US is basically broke.

  10. JayJay February 25, 2011 at 4:45 am #

    Not such a bad decision from airbus viewpoint : a330F production will stay in France, Boeing will be obliged to maintain an out of date airframe, and in all other (open) contests, a330MRTT will win…

  11. Paulo M February 25, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    An interesting piece of imformation to keep in mind, regardless of the winner in this competition, is that the KC-X will very likely see peak oil. That will be a major factor in its operation many years from now.

  12. Sam February 25, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    I think the proof lies within the commercial world which (for the most part) is driven by the economy, not politics. There, it’s clear for all to see that the 767 is continually replaced by the A330, which would imply it is the superior aircraft.

  13. CBL February 25, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    Cheer-leading is totally stupid and puerile, the A-vs-B debate is sterile.

    The real surprise came when the USAF awarded the contract to EADS because it was the better offering, regardless of politic. That was the real shock, even for EADS.

    Awarding the contract to Boeing is not a surprise even though all expert agree the the EADS plane is the better one. The KC-46 will be a good plane but not as capable as the KC-45.
    Both EADS European government (FR and D) would have done the same (although they would have got the better plane :) ).

    Politic always plays a big part in big contracts, particularly for military ones. This is a fact.

  14. alloycowboy February 25, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    Hey Jon,

    Does the KC-X win mean that Boeing won’t have the engineering man power to design the 737 replacement aircraft causing it to be further delayed.

  15. Kevin February 25, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    This is good news for the american taxpayer. Judging how much Boeing beat Airbus by, we will be paying less than we would have had the first two attempts at this contract gone through.

    This is good news for US, … and Boeing

  16. Ken Rand February 25, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    I always thought that the best tanker would be one that gets the most weight off the ground in available fuel to off load at max range, hence KC10 is better than a Tristar. If you look at the Falklands bombing mission 2 KC10 would have more than likely got the job done and not all the victors it took and then the nearly failed with the mission a/c and some tankers very nearly running out of fuel.
    While it is no shock that Boeing won I wounder what the fly boys on the tanker sqn’s would like to have? but as said already politics first, mission, way down the list.

  17. Wilbur Wrong February 25, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    Assuming this choice doesn’t get overturned (again), now Boeing has to build these airplanes and deliver them on-time.

    Years ago, this wouldn’t have been much of an issue, but Boeing’s recent track record – 787, 747-8, 767-based tanker for Italy, Wedgetail, P-8, indicates this is going to be a huge challenge for them.

  18. Uwe February 25, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Independent of differences both bids seem to be at least
    $18m over the last round. No idea if this is due to inflation
    or scope drift. ( or both ) .

  19. Richard P. Siano February 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    The Boeing 767 first flew 30 years ago. Why would the Air Force buy a 30 year old design? The lack of progress in the field of aviation continues to astound me. The Boeing 707 first flew in 1957 and it would cruise at Mach .86. Today, more than 50 years later, travel time has not been reduced by any significant margin.
    Why have we permitted this to happen?
    Dick Siano

  20. Terence February 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Saying that the Air Force is buying a 30 year old design is an unjust statement that Airbus proponents say a lot.
    Whether it’s a 1 year old design or a 100 year one, the design that fits the mission with the lowest cost should win the contract.

    The technical gurus at Flightblogger can probably point to you why cruise speeds at that range is most common.

    Wikipedia might help as well.

    The Concorde page shows some heating and structural limitations for cruise speeds:

  21. dopydem February 25, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    Mr. Siano a little study of physics and economics would answer your question. The Concord, a ship ahead of its time, has proved that commercial aircraft speeds beyond the sound barrier are not economically possible until there is a giant breakthrough in propulsion.

  22. RaiDog February 25, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    Seriously? Saying the NewGen Tanker is a 30 year old aircraft is simply a misstatement of the facts. Take the wings and the engines off a 767 or A330 and all you have is a tube. The aerodynamics of both are similar except for weight. There, the 767 airframe has a distinct advantage…its smaller, hence lighter. Put some new wings and engines on the NewGen and its a completely different bird than the venerable 767. Your statement is kind of like saying that the 737NG is no different than a 737 classic. That’s hardly the case.

    American Tanker…built in America, by an American company, employing America workers is the best result for the American warfighter! Being cheaper is also a bonus!!! Congrats to the Boeing team for finally getting their heads out of their backsides.

  23. iamlucky13 February 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    Richard – the A330 first flew just under 20 years ago. 20 versus 30 years isn’t so big of a difference, especially considering they use the same basic engines.

    Regardless of the design age, these will be newly built airframes. When they get to the end of their lives, neither one will have been produced for commercial purposes in roughly 40 years.

    There have been many opportunities, by the way, to reduce travel time, culminating in the Concorde.

    But overwhelmingly, passengers have voted for lower cost rather than faster travel.

    The Boeing Sonic Cruiser would have flown faster than current generation planes for the same costs, but the airlines voted strongly instead for the same speed, but lower costs, hence why the Sonic Cruiser was dropped in favor of the 787.

  24. CBL February 25, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    puerile remark

  25. AirShowFan February 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    The lack of progress in the field of aviation continues to astound me. The Boeing 707 first flew in 1957 and it would cruise at Mach .86. Today, more than 50 years later, travel time has not been reduced by any significant margin [...] Dick Siano

    Dick: anyone is welcome to design, build, test, certify, and operate a faster transport. No one does, and this simply reflects the fact that there isn’t a market for it. I’m not even sure that the Concorde ever paid for itself, for that matter. (But it does surprise me that no one is making supersonic bizjets. It seems to me that those might sell). It just so happens that the minimal cost-per-mile-per-seat tends to be right around MACH 0.85, given the laws of physics and the properties of the atmosphere. And notice how that cost (primarily fuel burn, also maintenance costs, etc) keeps going down. How much does a coast-to-coast ticket cost today? How much did one cost in 1980? 1960? When the objective is selling tickets, that is progress!

  26. Rengab February 26, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    hi jan

    is this probable?

    After The Tanker Loss, Will Airbus Build An A-350 Assembly Plant In The U.S. ?

  27. keesje February 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    I think the decision was taken a few years ago, when the rules were put by politics.

    Any additional capability above Kc767 no longer counted, factors like past performance and risk were neutralized by a yes/no qualifier systems. No options to score.

    I’m still surprised how trick got accepted. NG saw the writing on the wall & quit over it.

    The USAF needs tankers yesterday and knew selecting the “wrong one” again would cause trouble and no tankers. And then there was the political pressure Patty M & Maria C are openly boosting about.

    End of the story is the US gets a 20%-30 less capable platform for a 2 % discount, but I guess no one wants to know & everybody wants to forget / look ahead. So lets join in.

  28. iamlucky13 February 26, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Esker Curve – As I understand the criteria, the cost included operating costs out to a certain number of years.

    Because the 767 burns less fuel, and likely costs slightly less to build in the first place, this does tend to favor Boeing, but Airbus thought they could still beat Boeing’s price.

    Apparently when the Air Force started to put together the RFP, they set this at 25 years, but Representative Norm Dicks is claiming he pushed for this to be changed to 40 years, since the tanker will likely be in service for at least that long.

  29. marvin February 26, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Assuming that the biding process went fair, I wonder whether Boeing did not went too agressive to undercut EADS price. After all Boeings record on estimating project costs has not been flawless as of recent. And I wonder how they could undercut the price of a product which is already flying with a platform which needs substantial development.

    When you have the 787 not making money, the 747 not selling and the cash cows (777 and 737) under increased pressure, it might not be the best of ideas to fill the 767 lines and occupy strategic resources with a product that is not going to bring you profit.