When the US Air Force announced on February 29, 2008 that Northrop Grumman/EADS North America beat Boeing for the KC-X contract, a reporter asked the chief of Air Mobility Command — Gen Arthur Lichte — why. Here’s that exchange:
Q: And just to follow, did size matter in this issue? I mean, the KC-30 istwice as large as the 767. Did that play into cost savings, and wasthat an issue in this decision?GEN. LICHTE: Well, I –from a warfighter’s perspective, and I know the team looked at a wholenumber of things, but from my perspective, I can sum it up in oneword: more.More passengers, morecargo, more fuel to offload, more patients that we can carry, moreavailability, more flexibility and more dependability. And so from myaspect, the team did tremendous work and now we will take that and putit into the fight.
The underlying philosophy behind that statement ultimately played a role in the undoing of the original contract award. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled that the US Air Force communicated the opposite message to Boeing during the competition, among several other issues.
We won’t know whether Lichte’s “more” strategy remains in effect until the Office of the Secretary of Defense or the US Air Force releases a draft request for proposals, which is expected before October.
But that may be the key reason why Boeing offers the KC-767 or KC-777, with the latter obviously carrying more fuel, more cargo and more patients than Northrop’s Airbus A330-200-based KC-45 proposal.
In Gen Lichte’s press conference at the AFA convention yesterday, I reminded Lichte about his comments on February 29, 2008, and asked him if his “more” philosophy had changed.
Lichte replied that he would not pre-empt the details from the draft RFP. But he added that “our requirements are pretty much the same”, although several overlapping requirements have been consolidated into a single requirement.
But is having more fuel offload still a key factor for the competition?
“Certainly, when you are talking about replacing a tanker, fuel is important,” Lichte said.