European manufacturer still pushing KC330 despite failure to impress US military

EADS is continuing to promote concepts for an Airbus KC330 in-flight refuelling tanker and an A320-based maritime patrol aircraft, despite having failed to win support from the US military or secure a local industrial partner.

At the same time, the company is seeking to push the A330 as an alternative to the Boeing 767 for the US Air Force's multirole command and control aircraft (MC2A).

The USAF recently elected to open negotiations with Boeing to lease 100 767 tankers after rejecting a rival proposal submitted by EADS. But the European consortium has continued to brief Congress on the aircraft and has mounted a KC330-based advertising campaign.

There is concern within Boeing that EADS might be seeking to undermine the 767 proposal before a deal can be reached and approval secured from Congress.

Greg Bradford, EADS North America president, denies any lobbying to overturn the 767 tanker deal, but says it is an effort to keep the KC330 "in front of the potential customer and US Congress. We're saying we're still here and that competition equals best value. "There will be a need for more tankers, along with the MC2A, and the air force is telling us they will compete all future programmes," he adds.

EADS is looking at follow-on funding in 2004 for additional tankers over and above the number of 767s leased in 2002-03, along with the MC2A.

The European manufacturer is still waiting for information, and is hoping to discuss requirements with the USAF in the near future. Airbus also wants to offer the KC330 to potential customers including Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

The US Navy has not allowed EADS to compete as prime contractor for the multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft, and EADS has been unable to find a local partner in time for the recent submission of proposals after Lockheed Martin backed away from a planned tie-up.

As the navy further refines its requirements during the current initial phase, Bradford says that there may be an opportunity and a requirement for some competitors to reconsider their offers and the A320.

Source: Flight International