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Russians to Bid for KC-X? US Aerospace Says Yes

Update — Antonov is now a Ukrainian company, but in the days of the Former Soviet Union it made transports and utility aircraft for the “Russian” military, civil air companies and Warsaw Pact nations. My bad for being old school.

It came out today that there will be a third bidder for the Air Force’s new KC-X aerial tanker program. US Aerospace will propose a system based on Antonov platforms from Russia. There had been earlier rumors that the company would team with Ilyushin to offer a variant of the IL-86 airliner for this, but that had seemed to go nowhere.

Antonov makes large transport aircraft such as the AN-124 used to move outsize cargo across the world. According to US Aerospace they may offer a version of the AN-124 or an aircraft called the “AN-112″. The 112 is supposed to be based on earlier turboprop transport heavily used by the Soviet Union and its allies.

The submission of a third bid will change the competition quite a bit. A Russian based aircraft may certainly be cheap putting pressure on both Boeing (BA) and EADS (EADS:P) to review the cost of their proposals.

US Aerospace, similar to EADS, will assemble the aircraft in the U.S. and add the military specific equipment themselves. This will also include the flight refueling equipment.

They only have about two weeks to get a proposal together so if they do end up bidding it will be very interesting.

What less then a year ago seemed to be a program with only one company bidding, Boeing, now looks to have a chance to have three.

This program seems only to get more complicated.

WTO Report on Airbus Subsidies Roils Tanker Battle Further

Yesterday the formal report by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on their investigation of complaints by the U.S. Government and Boeing (BA) that EADS (EADS:P) and its subsidiary, Airbus, received illegal subsidies was released. The WTO did not support all aspects of the complaint but did say that launch aid provided by European governments to the airliner company was wrong. This launch aid was normally in the provision of low interest loans that were only paid back once the sale of the aircraft became profitable. The aid was considered illegal export subsidies.

U.S. politicians supportive of Boeing’s bid for the new KC-X aerial tanker for the Air Force seized on the report to aid their quest to have EADS bid either rejected or adjusted to reflect the addition of the illegal subsidies. The Pentagon has clearly stated several times in the past that as part of their source selection process they cannot and will not take into account the loans and other aid.

Congress recently passed legislation in the House that is an attempt to force the Defense Department to do that. The Senate needs to also vote on it and it will then move to a discussion of whether the DoD will follow that requirement.

The WTO said that without this aid the company would not have been in as good financial shape as it has been and could not afforded to develop some products — including the superjumbo airliner A380. The WTO may force the company to pay back some of the money, or allow the U.S. to impose tariffs on European goods.

The WTO did rule though that other aid the company received such as tax breaks or infrastructure support rose to the level of illegal subsidies. EADS and the European governments will appeal the case back to the WTO and are waiting to hear about their counter complaint. In this they are claiming that the money Boeing received from the U.S. military for Research & Development (R&D) amounts to illegal subsidies as well as it helped develop their commercial aircraft. That ruling may be announced before the end of the month.

The KC-X program is now on its third attempt to buy a new tanker to replace the aging KC-135 aircraft. The WTO ruling will make it easier for Boeing’s supporters to claim EADS is undercutting prices and causing the source selection process to be even more difficult. It also allows for a protest by either company if they lose and will motivate Congress to interfere even more.

The situation has been caused by the lack of aircraft manufacturers in the world. Really only Boeing and EADS may bid on the contract. With the demise of McDonnell Douglas in the Nineties there exists only one U.S. source. Awarding a sole source contract to Boeing will be difficult and the Air Force wants at least a modicum of competition.

Further delays seem inevitable.

Photo from Monica’s Dad’s flickr photostream.

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Air Force Now Slips RFP Award Date to November

Earlier this year in responding to questions about the delay to the submissions of proposals to July due to the accommodation for EADS (EADS:P) the Air Force said the contract will start in mid-November. Now word is coming out that the award won’t be made until “late November”. Critics have seized on this changes as a delay due to the decision to allow EADS to bid.

Technically this is a delay of several weeks from the original schedule. The chances though of the Air Force meeting that were low as it was very aggressive. It only gave them four months to review proposals and conduct the award. Even if they assumed the new proposals were similar to the last ones in 2008 that amount of time to conduct a source selection for a contract of this size may have been a little unrealistic.

This decision will spur EADS’ opponents and Boeing (BA) supporters to further their current war of words.

SecDef Steps Up for EADS

The Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made clear that the Defense Department and the Air Force want some competition for the KC-X aerial tanker program. This is going to have to include EADS (EADS:P) against Boeing (BA) due to the requirements of the program. Gates stressed disappointment with those in Congress attempting to prevent U.S. companies working with EADS on their bid.

If there is going to be any competition for the third attempt to buy a replacement for the aging KC-135 aircraft it will have to include EADS. The only other potentially viable contender would be a Russian aircraft either based on the Ilyushin IL-78 Midas system or perhaps on the IL-96 wide body airliner. Having a Russian competitor would make the contest even more difficult then just one with EADS.

Boeing Plans for New Presidential Helicopter Have a Role in KC-X

Here is a post I wrote at Defense Procurement News about Boeing’s (BA) decision to use the Augusta Westland 101 as the base aircraft for their new Presidential transport helicopter bid. It makes them look a little hypocritical on the whole EADS (EADS:P) role in KC-X.

House Adds Language to Force Pentagon to Consider Subsidies to Defense Authorization Bill

The House of Representatives in their vote on the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill added an amendment sponsored by Washington and Kansas members to force the Pentagon to consider the WTO ruling on illegal subsidies when it comes time to consider EADS’ (EADS:P) bid. The Pentagon has made it clear in the past that their contracting and acquisition laws and regulations do not allow them to factor that into their cost evaluations. This language if it is in the final version of the bill when it is passed after Conference will supposedly make them do that.

One question though is the Air Force plans to receive bids on July and announce a decision in the late Fall. There is a good chance that the source selection if it follows that schedule will be complete before the bill makes it out of Congress. While the Authorization Act often is done before the Appropriations one it is often not complete by 30 September as it should be. The Pentagon could also argue to ignore the language setting up some sort of court fight. EADS could also adjust their prices to take into account the effect of the WTO ruling.

Boeing Unloads National Security Risks of “EADS”

Using the example of EADS (EADS:P) marketing a helicopter in Iran in 2005 Boeing (BA) is raising the idea that a successful EADS win of the KC-X might be a security risk. EADS North America of course has shot back that the issue is really not a part of this contest and that the U.S. Defense Department has not issues with their participation. It is really not a fair criticism in this situation. Boeing has certainly sold aircraft to many different nations some of whom are not friendly to the U.S. right now.

The idea of dual placed loyalties for a competitor such as EADS that is located overseas is not an uncommon criticism in these situations. Ideally there would be multiple domestic sources for any government contract but especially defense related ones. The problem is for the KC-X there is only two real world sources for this type of aircraft and only one is American. The real issue here is the decline of the U.S. industrial base over the last twenty-five years.

Congress Continues To Try And Micromange KC-X Process

In the latest move by Congress to try and get the U.S. Air Force and DoD to consider the WTO rulings on EADS (EADS:P) subsidies, legislation has been introduced that will require at least a report by the Pentagon on their affect on the competition.

Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) (No shock there?) is trying to amend the 2011 Defense Authorization Act to require the Air Force to detail the advantage the subsidies gives EADS prior to issuing the contract. Since the DoD cannot consider the ruling in awarding the contract this at least gets a record out of the effect (if any) on the contest.

KC-X Aerial Tanker Contract Starting To Become A Farce

May 20, 2010 by · Comment
Filed under: BNET, Syndicated Industry News 

Boeing (BA) has now said that they are considering not bidding on the Air Force’s new aerial tanker program. They expressed concern about the fixed price contract and EADS’ subsidies. The…

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Boeing Restates Intent To Bid

Following reports last week that Boeing (BA) was considering not submitting a bid for the KC-X contract the company reiterated its interest today. The previous reports said that Boeing was concerned with the fixed price aspects of the contract but now the story is that the company believes EADS (EADS:P) due to its subsidies could assume more risk in their proposal.

It would be almost impossible now for the company not to bid due to all of the support it has gotten for getting the contract.

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.

No Shock Here – Washington State Politicians Support Boeing

In this report the Governor of Washington, Ms. Gregoire, and Senator Patty Murray make clear that awarding the KC-X contract to Boeing (BA) will protect jobs in that state. The two Democrats rightly point out that several thousand jobs at Boeing support the 767 program as well as supply parts and components to the company.

In another not surprise the two showed up at a rally with union members and local officials.

Once again the U.S. finds itself in this situation due to the severe reduction in the defense industrial base twenty years ago that leaves only Boeing and its competitor European company EADS (EADS:P). For there to be any chance at competition with a goal of saving money for the Pentagon the two have to bid against each other – jobs or not.

U.S. Policy On Selling Weapon Systems Overseas Balanced By Protectionism

Here is an article I wrote at BNET: Government discussing efforts within the Defense Department to reform technology transfer and the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) with the goal of spurring U.S. weapon sales overseas. This contrasts with efforts among legislators, unions, the media and others to try to protect U.S. jobs by limiting foreign competition. The biggest example being the KC-X contest.

In it I write “There is nothing inherently protectionist about Gates’s proposals, which seek to streamline the ITAR and export control rules to make it easier for companies like Boeing (BA) and Lockheed Martin (LMT) to sell overseas. At the same time, though, some unions and members of Congress, such as the two Washington Senators, Cantwell and Murray, are resisting EADS’s (EADS:P) effort to bid on the $25 billion KC-X aerial tanker program.”

You made read the full article here.

Good Summary Of The KC-X Situation

The Kansas City Star has this lengthy article that describes the whole situation and explains how we got where we are with the KC-X tanker RFP. The article by Cleon Rickle may be found here. Key takeaways are:

“”I am confident Boeing can build the best plane for the Air Force, no matter the competition,” said U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts,of Kansas. “However, I urge the Department of Defense to run a fair competition and avoid coddling EADS to the detriment of American warfighters who have waited eight years for this contest to end and decades for a new tanker.”

“We will offer a modern, more capable tanker in response to the Defense Department’s decision to encourage competition for this major taxpayer investment,” said EADS North America chairman Ralph Crosby, Jr. “Our KC-45 is the only real, flying, low-risk solution that today meets the demanding Air Force air refueling requirements and is actually in production now. ”

EADS North America adds former U.S. Air Force General to Board

Retired Air Force General Arthur Lichte was named to EADS North America’s board. DefenseNews writes that the former head of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) will join EADS (EADS:P) American subsidiary’s board soon.

The AMC commands the Air Force’s tanker assets and having Gen Lichte will aid the company in preparing not only their proposal but the battlefield as he will certainly carry weight with government officials and Congress.

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.

Analysis: EADS Participating In KC-X Contest

This is an article I wrote at BNET: Government about EADS decision to submit a proposal.

“The decade-long saga to replace the KC-X aerial tanker contract begins a new chapter. The European aerospace giant EADS (EADS: P) and Airbus, its subsidiary, announced that it will definitely submit a contract proposal to the Air Force. The program will replace the aging Cold War KC-135 tankers (pictured).

Boeing (BA) thought it had won the contract for at least 179 new aircraft earlier this year when Northrop Grumman (NOC) who had bid in partnership with EADS withdrew from the bidding. Then, earlier this month, the Pentagon agreed to extend the deadline, at EADS’ request, to allow it time to submit a new bid.”

Read the rest at BNET.

EADS Goes for It: Can It Beat Boeing for Giant Tanker Contract?

April 21, 2010 by · Comment
Filed under: BNET, Syndicated Industry News 

Boeing and EADS are moving to some resolution on the new aerial tanker program for the U.S. Air Force. Over the last ten years two contracts have fallen apart and a third attempt is underway….

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EADS Goes for It: Can It Beat Boeing for Giant Tanker Contract?

April 21, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: BNET, Syndicated Industry News 

Boeing and EADS are moving to some resolution on the new aerial tanker program for the U.S. Air Force. Over the last ten years two contracts have…

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Alabama Senator Sessions Responds To Congressman Dicks

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) issued a press release today criticizing Washington Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA) for his comments basically telling EADS (EADS:P) not to attempt to bid on the KC-X contract.

In the release Sessions makes clear his desire for competition in the tanker contract while continuing to support EADS who have proposed assembling the Airbus 330 aircraft in Mobile, AL. Sessions writes: “Defense companies should understand that, contrary to Representative Dick’s comments, the majority of members in the House and Senate want a robust competition engineered not to benefit a single company, but to produce the best airplane for the war fighter.”

In Sessions view having EADS submit a bid along with Boeing (BA) will only strengthen the program. The award of what will amount to a sole-source contract to Boeing if EADS or another company does not bid will be a difficult process for the Air Force leaving many different avenues for criticism. This is especially true if Boeing has their struggles down the road.

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.

The WTO Will Not Play A Role in KC-X Dispute

The World Trade Organization (WTO) which is expected to announce formally its ruling against EADS (EADS:P) for receiving illegal subsidies to support Airbus airliners and is also considering a complaint against the U.S. and Boeing (BA) announced that it does not intervene in military contracts and cannot be involved in the KC-X dispute between the U.S. and Europe.

The chance of France or the E.U. filing a complaint over the terms of the proposal which are seen as limiting EADS chances to bid seems remote. Certainly President Sarkozy of France has raised the issue with President Obama. The Air Force has extended the deadline for proposal submission sixty days to allow EADS to submit a proposal if they want.

In 30-Year Trade War, Boeing Wins a Battle. Brace for the Counterattack.

April 12, 2010 by · Comment
Filed under: BNET 

Boeing (BA) relished the recent ruling of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that EADS (EADS) received illegal subsidies from European governments….

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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.

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

April 8, 2010 by · Comment
Filed under: BNET, Syndicated Industry News 

There are now reports that EADS is exploring teaming with other defense contractors to submit a proposal for the U.S. Air Force’s new aerial…

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