Boeing wins USAF tanker contest (the other one)

Even as it battles to win the contract to build the US Air Force’s next aerial refuelling tanker, Boeing has won the hard-fought competition to overhaul the USAF’s existing KC-135s.

The 10-year, $1.1 billion contract covers programmed depot maintenance of more than 200 KC-135s to keep them flying until the KC-X comes along.

It was a tough competition, pitting Boeing against Pemco Aviation Group – it’s subcontractor on the current KC-135 PDM contract, which ends in October. The two companies were originally teamed for the new contract, but Pemco was dropped by Boeing and decided to bid on its own.

Despite their disparity in size, winning the KC-135 work was importrant to both companies. Boeing said the PDM contract was crucial to the future of its San Antonio overhaul operation, and Pemco is selling its booming commercial MRO business to focus on military maintenance – a significant part of which was KC-135 PDM.

My colleague Steve Trimble over on The Dew Line is taking bets on whether Pemco will protest the award, as seems to be the fashion these days.

If it stands, the win is vindication of Boeing’s decision to apply its commercial-aircraft lean production experience to the military-aircraft maintenance environment, creating a “pulsed” line and cutting a KC-135 overhaul from 200 days to 153 – numbers that now have the airlines asking about lean MRO.

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