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Northrop defends KC-X win as Boeing nears protest decision

As Boeing continues to evaluate whether to protest its loss of the US Air Force's KC-X tanker contract, Northrop Grumman has again moved to defend its winning bid.

Debriefed on its win by the USAF today, 10 March, Northrop indicates its proposal was ranked superior to Boeing's on four of the five evaluation criteria.

"According to the Air Force, Northrop Grumman's KC-45A was selected because it is more advantageous to the government in the key areas of mission capability, past performance, cost/price, and integrated fleet aerial refueling assessment," says Paul Meyer, KC-45A programme manager.

Debriefed on 7 March, Boeing says it continues to "evaluate with growing concern" the information provided by the US Air Force.

"As we have gone through this process it has become clearer that this competition was much closer than has been reported, and that raises the stakes if the process was flawed and unfair in any way," says Mark McGraw, KC-767 programme manager.

"We have serious concerns over inconsistency in requirements, cost factors and treatment of our commercial data," he says in a statement.

Amid intense media speculation over why front-runner Boeing lost the competition, both companies have publicly responded to reporting on the strengths and weakness of their rival bids.

Boeing says it takes exception to reports the US Air Force had not received adequate commercial pricing data on its 767-based tanker.

"It was clear from the request for proposals that the Air Force was seeking a commercial derivative tanker. However, by treating the Boeing offering as a military aircraft, the process by which the commercial cost/price data provided by Boeing Commercial Airplanes was evaluated has raised significant concerns," McGraw says.

"We provided unprecedented insight into Boeing commercial cost/price data that had been developed over 50 years of building commercial aircraft. We believe this data was treated differently than our competitor's information," he says.

Boeing also disputes assertions that it somehow misread US Air Force requirements and offered an aircraft that was too small.

"Our proposal was based on the stated criteria in the Air Force's request for proposal, with a specific focus on providing operational tanker capability at low risk and the lowest total life cycle cost," McGraw says. "We stand by our offering and believe that it did, and continues to, best meet the requirements."

Northrop, meanwhile, has responded to accusations its Airbus A330-based tanker will cost US jobs and will benefit from European subsidies for Airbus.

Noting that "job creation was not a part of the evaluation criteria, in accordance with federal law", Northrop says assembly and militarisation" of the KC-45A in Mobile, Alabama will create 1,500 US jobs. The programme "does not transfer any jobs from the United States to France or any other foreign country", it says.

On the subsidies issue, Northrop points out: "The US Department of Defense ruled that the disputes involving Boeing and Airbus currently being adjudicated by the World Trade Organization were not relevant to the US Air Force's KC-X tanker competition."



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