GAO rules on US Air Force tanker contract protest

Washington DC
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Boeing and Northrop Grumman may be forced compete all over again for a contract worth up to $35 billion to supply up to 179 tankers to the US Air Force.

US Government Accountability Office (GAO) auditors investigating a protest filed by losing bidder Boeing have found irregularities in the acquisition process that led to the USAF’s selection of the Northrop/EADS North America KC-30 tanker.

 

kc30-ng

© Northrop Grumman
It was Northrop’s larger sized KC-30 aircraft and perceived capability that helped sway USAF's decision

The GAO’s recommendations are not binding, but, as the investigative arm of Congress, the USAF is expected to comply with the agency’s findings.

The GAO report also could inflame objections in Congress to the USAF’s announced selection on 29 February of a tanker based on an Airbus A330-200.

USAF officials have said they chose Northrop’s slightly higher-priced KC-30 bid because of the aircraft’s larger size and perceived capability.

The $12.1 billion contract pays to develop and deliver the first 68 aircraft, but the value of the deal may rise to $35 billion if the USAF exercises options to buy another 111 aircraft.

In March, Boeing filed a formal protest with over the USAF’s decision with the GAO.

The company invoked their protest right on a variety of points, but mainly because the USAF requirements called for a medium-sized tanker and because USAF officials rejected Boeing’s commercial pricing estimates.

 kc767-boeing
 © Boeing IDS
Losing bidder Boeing's KC767