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KC-46A Costs Reportedly Increase

A few weeks ago it was reported that Boeing (BA) had already informed the U.S. Air Force of at least a $300 million increase in the costs of the first phase of the KC-46A aerial tanker program. This led to Reuters asking the Air Force some follow up questions on the situation.

They are now reporting that the way the current contract is structured the Government and Boeing would share in the first $1 billion increase beyond the target price of $3.9 billion for the EMD contract which will also deliver 18 tankers. The original contract value was about $3.6 billion.

Once the price gets beyond $4.9 billion Boeing would be responsible for all costs. Up to that they would pay 40% and the government 60 or $600 million. The reports last month had Boeing predicting that they would spend at least $4.2 billion.

This was the third attempt by the Air Force to award the new tanker contract since 2001. An attempt to award a sole source lease to Boeing was derailed by fraudulent activity by Air Force acquisition chief Darleen Druyun and Boeing’s CFO. In 2008 EADS teamed with Northrop Grumman (NOC) won a contest that was overturned on protest by Boeing. This latest contract is the result of the new competition held due to Boeing’s successful protest. EADS was not able to match the price that Boeing offered which is now seemingly controversial due to the reported cost increases.

Reports that KC-46 Contract Already Showing Cost Growth

Bloomberg is reporting that the U.S. Air Force has been briefing Congress in preparation for the FY12 budget that the KC-46 tanker contract with Boeing (BA) is already showing growth beyond the initial award price. The first part of the program is for development and testing as well as the delivery of the first 18 aircraft.

The value awarded was $4.9 billion but the indications are that it will be at least $300 million more. The way the contract is structured Boeing will have to cover that cost increase themselves. Boeing, though, seems confident that when all is complete the contract will be executed for close to the $3.9 billion and will not cost the company.

Boeing was awarded the contract in February for the new tanker program. The Air Force plans this as the first phase of a new program that could buy several hundred new tankers to replace the KC-135 and KC-10 fleet currently supporting operations. Boeing will ultimately build over 150 of the KC-46 tanker based on their commercial 767 airliner design. Boeing has also sold 767 based tankers to Italy and Japan with Italy just taking possession of their first aircraft.

The current estimate though of about a six percent cost increase is not a good sign for a program just starting which is going to be held to strict cost standards. One of the major reasons that Boeing won was their much lower price then their competition from Europen aerospace giant EADS (EADS:P) U.S. subsidiary, EADS North America. Their proposal based on the KC-30 tanker ordered by Australia and the U.A.E. was more expensive but was a larger aircraft that could carry more fuel. Further cost growth will only bring more scrutiny and criticism from Congress.

This was the third attempt by the Air Force to award the new tanker contract since 2001. An attempt to award a sole source lease to Boeing was derailed by fraudulent activity by Air Force acquisition chief Darleen Druyun and Boeing’s CFO. In 2008 EADS teamed with Northrop Grumman (NOC) won a contest that was overturned on protest by Boeing. This latest contract is the result of the new competition held due to Boeing’s successful protest.

KC-X Soon? Protest Coming

At a recent press availability during the Air Force Association’s winter conference the Secretary of the Air Force indicated that the KC-X new aerial tanker contract will be awarded as early as this week. Earlier rumors had it being done in the next month or so.

Mr. Donley also made it clear that there is a potential for a protest of the award by either Boeing (BA) or EADS NA (EADS:P) if they don’t win and that the Air Force and the Defense Department are prepared to deal with it.

This is the third attempt to award this contract with the last contest won by Northrop Grumman (NOC) and EADS in 2008 overturned on Boeing’s protest. Due to the size, importance and the conflicts between the U.S. contractor and its supporters and the European aerospace giant this may continue to be an messy, extended affair.

For now everyone must wait until the decision is announced which could occur as early as tomorrow after 5:00 Eastern.

Both Companies Submit Final Proposals But Will Continuing Resolution Allow Award?

It has been confirmed that both Boeing (BA) and EADS North America (EADS:P) submitted their final proposals for the KC-X aerial tanker program. The Air Force had asked that they be submitted by today and both companies turned them in early.

One pressing question that remains is if the Department of Defense remains under Continuing Resolution (CR) for the rest of the year rather then Congress passing a proper budget is it possible to award the new contract? It looks like the Republican controlled House is planning on doing CR until the new Fiscal Year (FY) starts in October. There has not yet been any statement from the Government on this question.

One would think that even if the source selection is carried out and a winner chosen with the caveat that the contract award would have to wait until the next FY it might affect the pricing. Having a requirement to guarantee the pricing for several months has not been identified yet and it would have some effect on each company’s bids.

As everything with this program nothing is easy and it seems this third attempt may be even more complex and controversial than the first two.

Air Force Keeps Paying to Keep KC-135 Tankers Flying

As the U.S. Air Force and Defense Department works towards awarding the new KC-X aerial tanker contract they still must maintain and operate the existing Cold War era KC-135 aircraft. As the attempt to buy a new aircraft undergoes its third attempt and enters its tenth year the KC-135 and KC-10 fleet supports U.S. combat operations across the globe.

These aircraft require their regular maintenance and modification which means the Air Force has to pay for new parts as well as for the servicing.

Aerospace Products S.E. in a sign that the KC-X won’t be arriving any time in the near future received a multi-year contract to provide hardware and fasteners for the KC-135. The company also works to manage aspects of the parts pool and supply chain for the aircraft. No value for the contract was given.

Boeing (BA) who were the original manufacturer of the KC-135 also recently was awarded a contract to provide technical engineering support for the program. Working at Tinker AFB the location of the Program Manager for the aircraft the contract requires Boeing to provide analysis, modification support and support to the maintenance facility at Tinker as well as support accident

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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.

Latest KC-X Article At BNET: Government

This is the latest post I wrote for BNET: Government entitled “KC-X Aerial Tanker Contract Starting To Become A Farce”.

It starts “The Air Force’s ten-year effort to purchase a new aerial tanker continues rapidly seems to be disintegrating. The third attempt at awarding a contract for what has now become one of the most critical needs for the Department of Defense has been roiled by international trade, politics and concerns about the whole approach.”

You may read the rest here.

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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Northrop And EADS Wait On Final RFP Release

The KC-X Tanker RFP is expected to be released in the next few weeks. Previously Notthrop and its partner EADS had threatened not to participate as they felt the draft RFP was biased in favor of Boeing. Now they are saying they will wait and see what is in the RFP when it is put out. It is in the best interest of the Air Force and the U.S. Government to receive multiple bids on the project.

Without competition the chance of this third attempt proceeding will be difficult. Sole sourcing the contract to either Boeing or the Northrop team will cause an outcry in Congress no matter what as both companies have their supporters. Not putting out a competitive RFP will only lead to protests and further delays in what has become a critical program to replace the aging KC-135 aircraft.

We are all going to have to wait to see what the Air Force puts out and how Northrop, EADS and Boeing respond to it.

EADS, Northrop And Boeing Gird For Third Tanker Try

September 28, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: BNET 

On Friday the 25th the U.S. Air Force posted the draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for the new KC-X aerial tanker. This will be the third attempt…

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