The rival Boeing and Northrop Grumman/EADS North America teams fighting to win the US Air Force's $12.1 billion, 68-aircraft KC-X tanker contract could be on course for another stalemate as the competition heads into a second round following Boeing's successful appeal against the original selection.

The US Department of Defense announced earlier this month that it intends to make two key amendments to the evaluation terms for a repeat contest, but the two competitors have taken opposite positions on the proposed changes, which sets the stage for a potentially protracted dispute if either decides to submit a new protest.


As the DoD prepares to outline the evaluation criteria for judging the next contest in early August, Boeing executives are lobbying to maintain the status quo. "We need to see the draft RFP to understand what the true requirements are going to be," says Boeing military aircraft president Chris Chadwick. "We have the best tanker for the requirement they put out, until we see something different."

So far, Boeing refuses to address questions about how it would respond if the draft document contains major changes to the evaluation criteria. All options, including offering a larger version of the KC-767 or the KC-777, remain on the table.

Northrop, meanwhile, supports the changes that the DoD intends to make to the proposal. "I'd say he was being reasonable," says Paul Meyer, Northrop's vice-president and general manager of air mobility systems.

Meyer is referring to the statements made earlier this month by John Young, undersecretary of acquisition, technology and logistics. Young has said he intends to de-emphasise the importance of long-term fuel and sustainment cost estimates and award official credit for every kilogramme of fuel that exceeds the minimum threshold. Meyer agrees that the next evaluation should offer credit for carrying more fuel: "Of course it should be evaluated," he says. "This is a tanker, so why should it not be?"

Northrop's KC-30B offering is larger than Boeing's KC-767 but burns more fuel in operation.

Source: Flight International