The Department of Defense could respond on 7 July to a new request from Antonov partner US Aerospace for a 60-day extension to the 9 July deadline to submit offers for the KC-X tanker contract.

US Aerospace adviser Charles Arnold confirmed that he expects a response from the offices of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley either today or on 7 July.

A nearly two-month delay would allow the US Aerospace/Antonov team to fully prepare three bids, Arnold says. US Aerospace has revealed three potential offers based on the An-124-KC and two new aircraft designs - the An-122-KC and An-112-KC.

If the extension is reduced to 30 days, however, US Aerospace would be able to submit one fully prepared proposal, Arnold says. Previously, Arnold had identified the undisclosed configuration of the An-112 as the company's best potential offer for the KC-X requirements.

Nothing is known about the An-112 design. No such aircraft designation currently exists in the Antonov fleet. Arnold says he cannot reveal new details about the configuration until after the Antonov team submits a bid for the KC-X contract. Arnold, however, ruled out a revival of the An-218, a project to challenge the A330 that Antonov abandonded in the mid-1990s.

US Aerospace/Antonov launched their unexpected KC-X campaign only eight days before the deadline for submitting proposals. Antonov and US Aerospace agreed to build the airframes in the Ukraine and assemble the aircraft somewhere in the US. Arnold has identified the Southeast and Midwest regions as likely locations for an assembly centre.

But the team may risk alienating their potential customer by submitting the request for an extension so late in the bidding process.

The DOD reluctantly agreed in late March to extend the deadline 60 days to allow EADS North America to prepare a standalone bid following the withdrawal of former partner Northrop Grumman.

At the time, Boeing opposed EADS' request for a 60-day delay. However, company officials declined an opportunity to take a stand on the new request from the US

"Nothing's changed as far as we're aware of. Friday is still the day," Boeing says. "We're ready to compete against anyone."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news