KC-X contest boosted EADS reputation in the USA: Gallois

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EADS has no regrets about competing for the US Air Force's KC-X tanker contract, despite losing out to rival Boeing, believing the whole episode has boosted the company's standing with US Department of Defense officials.

Chief executive Louis Gallois, speaking at the company's 2010 results presentation on 9 March, said that EADS's "reputation in the USA has dramatically improved" as a result of its participation in the contest.

He believes there has been a change in the way the company is viewed within the DoD and Congress and points to the "faithful support" it received from several southern states, notably Alabama, where it planned to assemble the A330-based KC-45 and its A330 freighters.

"If we want to develop our company [in the USA] we know where we can go and where we will be supported and welcomed," he added.

However, he believes that thanks to the parameters of the tender, which judged the two offerings solely on price, the US armed forces have lost out: "We regret that the warfighter in the US will not have the most capable tanker; ours is a more capable product, that is clear."

Although the company could have found "some small details" on which to build a protest over the handling of the competition, Gallois believes the company was not unfairly treated by the USAF. However, he acknowledges that "we knew the way that [the tender] was framed gave an advantage to the smaller airplane".

It has also held back from protesting for fear that this would be misconstrued by a US public that has been "expecting its tanker for the last 10 years", he adds. Nonetheless the competition has benefited the US taxpayer, he says, as the USAF is receiving more aircraft for a lower unit price. By its calculations the unit cost has been halved, leading to an overall saving of something in the order of $16 billion.

Boeing was awarded the contract , worth up to $35 billion, on 24 February. It will build 179 KC-46A aircraft over 13 years, based on its KC-767 New Gen Tanker. A first flight is scheduled for 2015, with initial operational capability, with 18 aircraft, due by 2017.