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.