Boeing is giving "serious consideration" to filing a protest against the award of the US Air Force's KC-X tanker replacement contract to Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent EADS.
The statement follows a debriefing today, 7 March, by the US Air Force on why Boeing lost the contract. Boeing requested an immediate briefing after the 29 February announcement that Northrop and EADS had won the $35 billion contract to produce 179 KC-45A tankers.
"While we are grateful for the timely briefing, we left the room with significant concerns about the process in several areas, including programme requirements related to capabilities, cost and risk; evaluation of the bids; and the ultimate decision," says Mark McGraw, Boeing vice-president and KC-767 programme manager.
"What is clear not is that reports the the Airbus offering won by a wide marging could not be more inaccurate," he says in a statement.
Boeing KC-767 (left) lost to Northrop's larger Airbus A330-based tanker
"Our plan now is to work through the weekend to come to a decision on our course of action early next week," McGraw says, emphasising Boeing "never takes lightly protests of our customers' decisions."
Boeing has 10 days from the debriefing to file a protest with the Government Accountability Office, but is expected to make is decision quickly. If it goes ahead, the GAO then has 100 days to rule on the protest.
The filing of a protest would force the US Air Force to order Northrop Grumman and EADS to stop work on their initial $1.5 billion contract to build four KC-45A test aircraft, the first of which is scheduled to fly in 2010.
A series of protests filed by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky against the US Air Force's award of the CSAR-X combat search-and-rescue helicopter to Boeing's HH-47 Chinook has seriously delayed that programme.