Bloomberg columnist Celestine Bohlen this morning proposes a radical solution to the “A400M nightmare”: Have Europe agree to dump the troubled airlifter and buy US-made C-17s and C-130Js. In exchange, somehow force the US Air Force to agree to buy an all-Airbus tanker fleet (presumably without competition)! The Paris-based Bohlen writes:
There may be a solution: If the Europeans swallow theirpride, and buy American military-transport planes, then maybethe U.S. Air Force could stifle its own protectionist urges andaward a much-disputed $40 billion contract for aerial-refuelingtankers to EADS and its U.S. partner, Northrop Grumman Corp.
The Europeans have a refueling tanker — the A330-200 –which is already up and flying. The Americans have well-testedmilitary-transport planes. Why reinvent the wheel when there isone already on the shelf?
Surely, burden sharing is what the trans-Atlantic allianceis all about. Why should the U.S. and Europe be duking it outfor orders when in another 20 years, they will both be desperateto save their defense industries from being cannibalized byChina and India?
Where does one begin?
To think about the political, economic and industrial consequences of a simple transatlantic, transports-for-tankers swap is like considering the riddles of quantum theory.
It is interesting for a moment to consider whether Boeing might accept giving up its monopoly on USAF tankers in return for splitting the market for global airlift between the C-17 and C-130J. But that moment passes quickly. The USAF needs hundreds of tankers, and the world probably needs only dozens of new C-17s. Meanwhile, Airbus trades a deeply troubled program for a production bonanza and an industrial foothold in their competitor’s backyard. How do you think that arrangement goes over with the US Congress?
My advice: Avoid taking advice from Bloomberg columnists.