KC-Airbus vs KC-Boeing

Based on a Seattle Times report, Airbus-vs-Boeing pundit Scott Hamilton speculates on his website www.leeham.net that changes made by Boeing to its KC-767 for the US Air Force’s KC-X tanker competition may actually improve the chances of the rival Airbus A330-based KC-30.

Hamilton’s argument revolves around the newspaper’s report from Paris that the “KC-767 Advanced” tanker offered by Boeing will use the larger wing from the 767-400. He believes the longer span of the -400 wing erodes Boeing’s argument that the KC-30 is too big to replace the KC-135.

Northrop Grumman, leading the KC-30 bid, argues the aircraft offers greater flexibility through its larger cargo capacity. Boeing says the KC-767 is “right sized” for the KC-X’s primary aerial-refuelling mission. The stage has been set for a tough test of the USAF’s “best value” source selection process.

Boeing has not confirmed it would use the -400 wing, but has previously said it would make changes to the KC-767 to meet the USAF’s desire to operate from runways as short as 7,000ft. A bigger wing would help – and allow the KC-767 to carry a heavier payload of fuel and/or cargo – closing the capability gap with the KC-30.

A more pertinent question to ask might be whether such changes will harm Boeing’s bid by closing the cost gap with the KC-30. On paper, the KC-767 should be cheaper, but Boeing will have to factor into its price the cost of developing and certificating a unique and substantially different version of the 767.

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