Boeing Details Tanker Capabilities at US Air Force Association Conference

Carl ChanceBy Carl Chance, Wings Over Kansas’ aviation & aerospace correspondent, former news consultant and producer for Wingspan Air & Space Channel.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2009 – Boeing [NYSE: BA] unveiled additional details of the company’s potential offering in the U.S. Air Force KC-X tanker competition, saying the KC-7A7 will offer maximum capability at the lowest cost.

In a briefing at the Air Force Association’s 2009 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition outside Washington, Rick Lemaster, Boeing KC-X director and program manager, said Boeing has "been listening to our U.S. Air Force customer, and we appreciate their efforts in preparing for the next competition."

"We are prepared to offer the best solution through the KC-7A7," Lemaster continued. "Whether it’s the agile 767-based tanker or the larger 777-based tanker, Boeing is ready to deliver maximum capability at the lowest cost."

Lemaster highlighted the merits of the KC-7A7 — a range of tanker options the company first introduced in June at the Paris Air Show — by highlighting the full complement of capabilities of both aircraft.

"If the Air Force wants a flexible wide-body tanker that is well suited to operate in an austere, expeditionary environment, the Boeing 767-based tanker is a powerful and demonstrated solution," said Lemaster. "And if the Air Force values more fuel, cargo and passengers, the Boeing 777-based tanker offers superior capability."

Based on mission scenarios, the Boeing 767-based tanker can offload 20 percent more fuel, carry three times the cargo and transport five times the number of passengers compared with the Air Force’s current KC-135, within a comparable narrow-body footprint. The Boeing 777-based tanker is comparable in size to the Airbus A330, but delivers 23 percent more fuel and carries 44 percent more cargo and 42 percent more passengers than the A330 in a more reliable and technologically advanced airframe.

tankerBoeing also announced the launch of a new Web site dedicated to KC-7A7: "What better venue to launch than at one of the country’s largest gatherings of the Air Force community," Lemaster said. "The Web site provides a public forum to communicate information about the Boeing KC-7A7 offering and updates throughout the competition."

The site features a blog to encourage open dialogue and an exchange of ideas. It also highlights the capabilities of both platforms through a photo gallery, fact sheets and news links and will serve as the single Web-based point of contact for all Boeing information about its KC-7A7 offering.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is one of the world’s largest space and defense businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is a $32 billion business with 70,000 employees worldwide.

Additional Related Tanker News:

United States Senator Sam Brownback, Kansas, is very much concerned regarding some important things happening globally that could potentially have some impact on Kansans and the Kansas economy. Earlier in September Brownback stated, "The World Trade Organization (WTO) reported that the European Union has been illegally subsidizing European airplane manufacturer Airbus, including the A330, which is the platform competing to be the next U.S. Air Force Tanker. These illegal subsidies can have some pretty substantial impact on commercial airplane manufacturing interests in Kansas.

Last year, Airbus was awarded a multibillion-dollar contract by the United States Air Force under which the A330 would be used as the Air Force’s new refueling tanker. A group of bipartisan Senators expressed frustration at the award and issued a strong statement blasting the tanker deal. In June, 2009, the Government Accountability Office gave a vote of no-confidence in the Air Force decision to award the tanker contract to Airbus. Boeing had competed with Airbus/EADS for the contract.

Now that an outside, unbiased organization has ruled that Airbus was illegally subsidized, it is a no brainer that the bidding process for the tanker project should incorporate this ruling. The Air Force should give this matter serious consideration when it restarts the tanker competition this fall. The WTO has ruled that Airbus acted illegally when developing the A330; the Air Force should not look the other way."

In Other Tanker News:

Les Blumenthal with McClatchy Newspapers stated, "The Pentagon is expected to release a draft request for bids on the tanker contract very soon. Boeing offered a tanker version of its venerable 767 wide-body jet, built in Everett, Washington. The 767s would be converted into tankers at a Boeing facility in Wichita, Kansas.

The Northrop-EADS tanker initially would be built in Airbus’ factory in Toulouse, France, though Northrop-EADS has said it eventually would open a new facility in Mobile, Alabama. Construction on the Mobile facility hasn’t started."

Note: At this time no date has been projected when that U.S. facility might be built, if ever.

Statements by two respected, former USAF Colonels Retired, and currently internationally recognized Aviation Author/Historians:

Walter J. Boyne stated, "The united States should buy ONLY a tanker built in the United States for a wide variety of reasons, but the most important one is that tanker lifetimes are measured in terms of forty to fifty years and more. We simply cannot afford to place our faith in the capabilities of another nation to deliver the necessary modifications, repairs and spare parts fifty years from now. To do so we would be nothing short of criminal madness. If you must have competition, let Northrop Grumman compete to build the Boeing design — that’s the way it was done for years, and that’s the way it could be done today."

Lionel D. Alford, Jr. "Alf" stated, "I think it is completely unreasonable for a critical American military article to be designed and manufactured outside of the United States. The opportunity for a foreign power to disrupt such an article’s supply chain or to hold ransom the article’s upgrades and modifications is just too great a danger. It would put the aviators, the military utility, and the extension of military power at risk."

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