Northrop Grumman and EADS plan to introduce a freighter variant of the Airbus A330 as they prepare to offer the KC-30 for the US Air Force’s tanker competition.

Boeing refuses to specify its planned offering until the requirement is defined, but says the KC-767A still makes the most sense on cost and general performance.

The air force has now completed an analysis of alternatives for the requirement, but has frozen the programme until external consultants complete reviews of the report.

Northrop has shifted its campaign emphasis from being a “smart tanker” provider to offering a freighter version of the A330 in response to an apparent shift among USAF officials to favour a joint tanker and cargo capability.

The company is also looking to replace a number of current equipment suppliers, because its current KC-30 proposal only betters a Buy American requirement for a 50% US supplier base by 2%.

Northrop aims to increase this total to 60%, but will not specify which systems or parts are being targeted.

However, Northrop’s senior executive vice-president for the tanker programme, Marty Dan­dridge, confirms: “Essentially what you are going to do is move French jobs to the USA.”

EADS North America Defense president David Oliver believes the USAF’s best option would be to split the tanker buy between the two bidders, because this would enable the rivals to compete for yearly contract awards.


Source: Flight International