France orders 12 Airbus A330 MRTT aerial refuellers

November 21, 2014 by · Comment
Filed under: Airbus, France, Syndicated Industry News 

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A330 MRTT Selected for India’s Next Aerial Refueling Platform

January 8, 2013 by · Comment
Filed under: France, Germany, India, Syndicated Industry News 
Airbus Military has confirmed that it has been selected by the Government of India as the preferred bidder to supply its A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport to the Indian Air Force (IAF). The estimated value of the A330 MRTT program could exceed US$2 billion.

Is KC-X It For Tanker Acquisitions?

This past week a study was released prepared by analyst Rebecca Grant on the KC-X program as a whole. Grant is the head of the think tank IRIS.

The report may be found here.

Grant believes that due to budgetary constraints the KC-X buy will be the only new tanker purchased and that the Air Force’s follow on KC-Y and KC-Z increments won’t happen.

She also believes that the use of the aircraft to support operations in the Pacific will be paramount over other planned missions. This drives her to conclude that large fuel capacity and range will be two of the capabilities driving the Air Force’s source selection decision.

Those two factors favor the larger EADS (EADS:P) A330 based system over Boeing’s (BA) 767 tanker aircraft.

If the second and third increments of aircraft are not purchased it would be a blow to both aerospace companies as the Air Force has said that they might be new competitions rather then just buys of the KC-X winner which makes sense as ultimately the Air Force does need to buy a replacement for the KC-10.

Ms. Grant’s thoughts have caused a great deal of thought and comment as the military nears its decision on which aircraft to buy.

A330 Tanker Reportedly Receives Military Certification

The EADS (EADS:P) subsidiary Airbus built tanker reportedly received its military certification from Spain’s military certification authority, INTA. While the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) does certify civil aircraft for many different nations it does not military systems. EADS needed a military certification authority to do that and used Spains.

The A330 MRTT is being built for Australia and the United Kingdom to perform aerial refueling missions. It has also been proposed by EADS for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-X contract as well as some Middle Eastern customers.

Military certification is a step forward in the process of the aircraft being accepted for use by its customers. The program has seen some delays but is moving forward into service with Australia and then Great Britain.

Boeing and Antonov Follow EADS and Submit KC-X Proposals

Boeing (BA) submitted their proposal for the KC-X aerial tanker program a day after rival EADS (EADS:P) did. Today was the day it was formally due, EADS coming in a little early. The Boeing proposal stresses their cost and size benefits over competing EADS with their larger A330 based aircraft. Boeing is basing their bid on a modified 767 airliner with advanced avionics from the yet to enter service 787.

Also U.S. Aerospace and Antonov submitted their competing proposal after losing a bid to delay things sixty days. There total cost is under thirty billion for a contract the Air Force has estimated at $37.5 billion based on an aircraft cost of only $150 million each.

The Air Force plan is to award the contract in four months. The three bids may make the competition’s source selection last longer and may also raise the chance of a protest.

If the U.S. Aerospace / Antonov team wins it might get very interesting.

Congress Wants WTO Taken Into Account In KC-X Bidding

Kansas legislators in both the House and Senate are planning to introduce a bill that would require the Pentagon to take WTO rulings into account. The Department of Defense has maintained that in accordance with U.S. laws and regulations that those matters cannot be considered or punished in contract awards. If it did that would be a violation of the WTO itself.

The bill would allow price adjustments to be made in bids to reflect illegal subsidies rulings. The legislators, Senator Brownback (R-KS) and Congressman Tiahart (R-KS), claim it would be applicable to any defense contract but it is obviously targeted at EADS (EADS:P) and their KC-X bid. The legislators claim that without taking these subsidies into account the price of the A330 based tanker will be artificially low.

They would prefer the contract go to Boeing (BA) who would do substantial work in Kansas on their tanker program.

New Website From EADS North America Stresses A330 Availability

EADS North America has set up a new website, http://www.kc45now.com/index/, that stresses the “Tomorrow’s tanker, ready today” aspect of their program. This is following up on their plan to stress the availability of their aircraft as compared to the newer Boeing (BA) “NewGen” tanker that while is is based on the 767 integrates some 787 avionics into it. This might require some development time.

The A330 is already in production for Italy and the U.K. and will, technically, only require the necessary U.S. Air Force specific equipment integrated onto it.

EADS Believes Established A330 Program Will Offset Possible Cost Disadvantages

In an article at the Seattle Times, Dominic Gates writes that EADS (EADS:P) is planning on offsetting some of their cost disadvantages related to the bigger aircraft and establishing a new production facility with less development. The aircraft they will offer again for the KC-X program is a modified version of the A330 MRTT already planned for Australia, Great Britain, UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The aircraft is a little behind schedule but is in test flights and will deploy the first of five aircraft to Australia this year. The U.K. ones are slated for 2011 and the two oil states will get there aircraft soon after. There will have to be some modifications to the A330 to meet U.S. Air Force needs but they should be minor. EADS feels that Boeing (BA) will have to spend more money to get their 767 based tanker ready as it does incorporate the 787 cockpit and parts of other 767 models. This means that it is not identical to the 767 tankers ordered by Japan and Italy. Japan has received three of their four aircraft while Italy has seen developmental delays and has not received any.

It is expected that the A330 will cost more to manufacture due to its size and the shipping involved to send the components to the U.S. from overseas. The bigger aircraft while capable of carrying more fuel and having a longer range then the 767 will cost more to operate and may require infrastructure investment as it is much larger then the KC-135 tankers being replaced.

Once the proposals are in it will be seen if EADS can do their pricing correctly.

EADS NA Struggling To Find U.S. Partner

It seems that EADS North America the subsidiary of the EADS (EADS:P) is searching for a U.S. company to partner with them on the KC-X tanker contract. Reports are that L-3 Communications (LLL) had been the prime target for this role but now they are rethinking that role.

EADS had planned to be a sub-contractor to Northrop Grumman (NOC) providing A330 aircraft that would then be militarized by Northrop. Now they are planning on being the prime contractor with a U.S. company to aid them. The roles are different enough that it will put pressure on EADS to prepare most of the proposal themselves as well as provide most of the contract management. With their history so far in the U.S. that might be a bit too much for them.

EADS Back in Play for the KC-X, the Aerial Tanker That Just Can’t Get off the Ground — From BNET: Government

Here is the latest post I wrote for BNET: Government –

“When Northrop Grumman (NOC) announced in March that it would not bid for the new aerial tanker for the U.S. Air Froce, the KC-X, Boeing (BA) and its many supporters in Congress believed it was sure to get the $35 billion contract. Now the deadline to bid has been extended 60 days to allow the European aerospace giant, EADS (EADS:P), to submit a proposal.

There are already reports that EADS, which would seek to provide A330 airliners made by its subsidiary, Airbus, to be modified into the tankers, is talking to other defense contractors about partnering.”

The rest may be found here.

Alabama Senators Not Happy With New RFP

In an article in The Mobile Press Register Senators Shelby (R-AL) and Sessions (R-AL) make it clear that they are not happy with the new RFP. Shelby says “The final RFP discredits the integrity of the entire process,” and Sessions seems to feel that Northrop Grumman (NOC) won’t bid. He laments the lack of competition in the process.

This of course is not a surprising reaction as Northrop and EADS planned to assemble the basic A330 aircraft in Mobile, AL and then integrate the military systems at a Northrop facility.

Two Tanker Buy Pushed Again

The Mayor of Mobile, AL was recently on Capitol Hill raising the issue of buying the new KC-X tanker from both Boeing (BA) and Northrop Grumman (NOC). Northrop and its partner EADS (EADS:P) plan to assemble the A330 aircraft in Mobile and then fit them out with the necessary equipment at a Northrop plant. The idea of awarding contracts to both companies has been discussed before. The primary benefit besides avoiding a protest and delaying the program again would be to more quickly replace the KC-135 aircraft.

The U.S.A.F. and Defense Department have not been positive about this idea in the past due to the larger, more expensive logistics tail required to support two dissimilar systems. During World War II and the Cold War the U.S. often did invest in multiple systems for a mission often operated by separate services. The U.S. military has not had the resources to afford this kind of commitment.

The new RFP is expected to be released within a matter of weeks. For the Air Force to do a dual award it would require development and approval of a whole new acquisition strategy. This would lead to even further delays in this contract. The chances of buying the two aircraft in the next year or so are very slight.

Northrop Congressional Supporters Continue Harsh Words

Last week Northrop Grumman (NOC) and its partner EADS (EADS.P) wrote a letter to the Defense Department stating that they are not interested in bidding on the KC-X contract if the current RFP language stands. Their argument is that it is currently biased towards a smaller aircraft which means that it is set up to give Boeing the contract. In their eyes there is no reason to go through the motion of bidding just not to win.

This of course caused all sorts of critics to rise up and claim that Northrop was trying to force the Government to bias the RFP and contract towards Northrop. Basically this is an attempt to blackmail the Government. The problem the Air Force has faced is that they need to write a RFP that gets them the best value bid meeting all of its requirements and is done in such a way that no protest occurs. This is proving difficult to do. The two aircraft, KC-767 or A330, are dissimilar enough that the requirements have to be carefully chosen. At the same time there is a great deal of pressure in Congress to support American companies and products. This is the state that the U.S. has gotten itself into by allowing only one major source of aircraft of this size to remain — Boeing (BA).

Now Northrop’s supporters in Congress are striking back. In a recent editorial the Congressman for Mobile, AL where EADS will assemble the aircraft, Jo Bonner (R-AL), writes that it is unfair to tar Northrop. In his eyes the Government is going out of their way to award a sole source contract to Boeing. This violates the spirit if not the law on contracting. He writes “And the reason Northrop Grumman, and its partner EADS, was not playing a game of chicken is because the draft RFP, released by the Air Force in September, has been all but written to guarantee the pre-selection of the smaller, older and much less capable Boeing 767″.

That is the crux of the problem. The Government lost the last attempt to award the contract competitively. Their attempt to let a sole source lease to Boeing before that was overturned by Congress. This next round doesn’t look good either. There is a crying need for this capability and it lags because of politics, industrial policy and poor management.

Analysis Stresses Increased Cost To Air Force Of A330 Due To Size

October 22, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: KC-X, KC-X Tanker News, Syndicated Industry News 

This analysis at The Gehrson-Lehamn Group stresses that the Northrop Grumman/EADS A330 based tanker proposal will be more expensive then the Boeing 767 one due to the larger size of the aircraft and the requirements for investments in infrastructure to support it. The conclusion is that the 767 aircraft is currently closer in size to the existing KC-135 fleet and the existing Air Force bases, runways and facilities will support it with little or no modifications.

EADS Sells More A330 Tankers To Saudi Arabia

EADS announced today that Saudi Arabia had doubled their order for aerial tankers by buying three more A330 MRT aircraft. This means that the Kingdom will now have six of the advanced tankers. They along with the U.K., Australia and the U.A.E. have ordered the aircraft. As part of the buy of the new aircraft Saudi Arabia has ordered logistic and parts support for the tankers although no contract value was announced.

The big contract for military refueling aircraft is the new tanker for the United States Air Force (USAF). EADS and Northorp Grumman had won the contract for the KC-X last year only to see it overturned on a Boeing protest. Now the new Obama Administration and the USAF will try again with a completely new RFP. That contract would be for over one hundred aircraft and would dwarf previous orders. There is still discussion of possibly splitting the contract between the two suppliers with a goal of maximizing the number of aircraft delivered in a short time. The USAF and Defense Department are against that as the two aircraft would require their own substantial support tail of parts, maintenance and training which would be quite expensive.

The A330 is a bigger aircraft then the 767 proposed by Boeing last time but requires larger airfields and more gas to fly a comparable mission. The bigger aircraft can carry more fuel for other aircraft so there has to be a balance struck there. It is definitely conceivable that the loser of the next contract will protest anyway so there may be further delays to the acquisition of the greatly needed capability.

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The Airbus Military A330 MRTT Has Successfully Performed First Contacts Using A New Generation Of Under-wing Hose And Drogue Refuelling Pods — Press Relase

The Airbus Military A330 MRTT Has Successfully Performed First Contacts Using A New Generation Of Under-wing Hose And Drogue Refuelling Pods

mrtt-oneThe Airbus Military A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) has completed another major milestone performing successfully a series of dry contacts using the new generation Cobham 905E hose and drogue refuelling pods, located under the wings. The receiver aircraft was a Spanish Air Force F/A-18A+ fighter.

The system performed well in hose extension and retraction, and showed good hose response in the contact as well as stability during pre-contact and when connected.

This new refuelling pod is a development of the 907E pod already in service with the Canadian and German air forces on their A310 MRTTs. The pods can each deliver up to 420 US gal/min (1600 litres/min) through a 90 ft (27.4 m) hose, and are controlled from a state-of-the-art Fuel Operator Console located in the cockpit.

“The next steps in the flight test program involve more contacts with the new hose and drogue refuelling pod and the advanced Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS), refuelling a variety of receivers that will include French, Portuguese and Spanish small and large receiver aircraft. This flight test phase will lead us to the completion of military certification, and final qualification with our customer” said Miguel Morell, Vice President Airbus Military Derivative Programmes.

The A330 MRTT has been selected by the air forces of Australia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and was chosen last year by the U.S. Air Force for its recapitalization of the service’s aging tanker fleet.

Media contact:
José María Palomino Communications Airbus Military Tel.: +34 91 585 77 89
Barbara Kracht Communications Airbus Military Tel.: +34 91 585 77 89
Eduardo Galicia Communications Airbus Military Tel.: +34 91 585 77 89

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Global Warming favors Boeing

According to this article a Washington Democratic Congressman wants to introduce legislation that requires the DoD to evaluate the “green house gas” emissions when awarding defense contracts. If this had been done as part of the KC-45 award, then Boeing would have won as nominally the KC-767 emits less harmful gases then the larger A330. Read more

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