US company partners with Antonov in surprise KC-X bid

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A new US company has entered the race for the US Air Force KC-X contract with a bid based on Ukrainian-built Antonov series airlifters.

A 1 July regulatory filing by the publicly-traded US Aerospace Inc. confirms the firm intends to bid in response to the USAF request for proposals for KC-X.

The filing document says US Aerospace will submit three models of Antonov aircraft - An-124-KC, An-122-KC and An-112-KC - before the KC-X bidding deadline on 9 July. The aircraft will be assembled in the US, but built in the Ukraine.

"We believe that we will be able to offer a superior aircraft at a significantly lower price than other potential bidders," the company says in the 8-K filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The US Aerospace/Antonov adds a dramatic new twist in the already heated competition between the Boeing KC-767 NewGen Tanker and EADS North America KC-45.

Antonov An-124 transports have been leased heavily by the USAF over the past decade to relieve demand on the strategic airlift fleet.

Little is known about the other two Antonov models listed by US Aerospace in the 8-K form. The An-122 is reportedly a two-engine version of the An-124. Meanwhile, an online Wikipedia entry on the An-12 turboprop cites a book reference to a concept for the An-112, which is described as a jet-powered, swept-wing variant of the Soviet Union's 1950s-era response to the Lockheed C-130.

The KC-X bid by US Aerospace is part of a broader strategic cooperation agreement signed with Antonov, according to the 8-K filing.

The agreement also includes bidding for other projects with Antonov aircraft to the Department of Defense, USAF and "licensed US defense contractors". The pact also covers the "sale of Antonov aircraft, products and services in the United States", the 8-K form says.

Antonov is responsible for design, construction and manufacture of aircraft under the agreement.

"We will be responsible for coordinating the bidding process, negotiating and contracting with customers, and coordinating with defense subcontractors for specialized systems," the filing document says.