PARIS AIR SHOW: Northrop/EADS rules out A330-200F for KC-X

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The Northrop Grumman/EADS North America team has eliminated the pure freighter version of the Airbus A330-200 airliner as a competitor for the US Air Force KC-X contract.

Northrop based its original proposal for the USAF's KC-135 replacement contract on the passenger to freighter conversion model of the A330-200.

Since forming the original bid, Airbus has launched the A330-200F, which is expected to fly by the end of this year.

Despite its potential availability, Northrop has ruled out the freighter model as too costly, too heavy and wrong for the USAF's requirement, says Paul Meyer, Northrop vice-president and general manager for advanced programmes.

eads/northrop grumman kc-x eads/northrop grumman 
 © EADS/Northrop Grumman

According to Airbus, the pure A330-200F is at least 8-10t heavier than the baseline passenger model. That extra weight would require a corresponding decrease in fuel load, Meyer says.

Moreover, "the freighter didn't find itself being necessary," Meyer adds, because the USAF requirements shifted away from employing the tanker as a supplementary airlifter.

But "the biggest driver was the cost", Meyer says.

Northrop is awaiting the release of a draft request for proposals by the US Air Force for KC-X. It expects the document to be released in late August, followed by the final RFP release in late October or early November. A final contract award could be signed in March 2010, Meyer says.