February 26, 2011

Boeing wins USAF Contract for Next-Gen Refueling Tanker


St Louis. Boeing has finally won the world’s biggest aerial tanker programme, defeating EADS which had appeared to be the favourite so far.

  Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney announced Feb 24 that the company had received a contract from the US Air Force (USAF) to build the next-generation aerial refueling tanker aircraft that will replace 179 of USAF’s 400 KC-135 tankers.
The new tanker will be designated KC 46A, according to Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who declared "Boeing as the clear winner" at a Pentagon news conference. "This competition favored no one, except the taxpayer and the war fighter," he said.
Notably, EADS had earlier won the competition but the Department of Defense had reconsidered after Boeing raised issues. EADS North America Chairman Ralph D Crosby described the result as disappointing, and said he would take it up on how USAF concluded the contract in favour of Boeing.
Boeing has designed the new tanker on its civil 767 airliner platform, while Airbus had pitched in with A 330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) which is on offer for the Indian Air Force (IAF) competition also against Russian Il 78, albeit for a very small number of six aircraft initially. Boeing had also been invited by IAF but had withdrawn saying it would bid only if it won the US tanker programme.
The USAF order is for a huge, long-range, 179 aircraft, estimated at $ 35 billion, spread over several years. According to a Boeing statement, the contract calls for Boeing to design, develop, manufacture and deliver 18 initial combat-ready tankers by 2017.
Boeing has been the sole provider of midair refuelers to USAF for 60 years, and with the new programme, the company would continue to be the fuel lifeline of the US forces deployed worldwide for at least 50 more years. That means the company would continue to improve upon its own record in aerial refueling.
McNerney observed: "Our team is ready now to apply our 60 years of tanker experience to develop and build an airplane that will serve the nation for decades to come” and “we're honored to be given the opportunity to build the Air Force's next tanker and provide a vital capability to the men and women of our armed forces,"
In selecting the Boeing NewGen Tanker after a lengthy and rigorous proposal process, the Air Force has chosen an American-built, multi-mission tanker that is based on the proven Boeing 767 commercial airplane and meets all requirements at the lowest risk for the warfighter and the best value for taxpayers. The Boeing proposal was created by an integrated "One Boeing" team from various sites across the company, including employees from the Commercial Airplanes; Defense, Space & Security; and Engineering, Operations & Technology organizations.
"This contract award would not have been possible without the hundreds of Boeing employees across the entire company, and the thousands of our industry teammates, who remained laser-focused on our commitment to offer a solution that is first in capability and best in value,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. "This award is also a tribute to the Air Force and Defense Department officials who worked so tirelessly to make this procurement process fair, ultimately resulting in the selection of the right plane for the mission. We look forward to working with our Air Force customer to deliver this much needed capability to the servicemen and women we are honored to serve."
The KC-46A tankers will be built using a low-risk approach to manufacturing by a trained and experienced US work force at existing Boeing facilities. The KC-46A tanker also will fuel the economy as it supports approximately 50,000 total U.S. jobs with Boeing and more than 800 suppliers in more than 40 states, said the Boeing statement.
"Boeing has always been committed to the integrity of the competitive process, and the men and women across our Boeing commercial and defense teams and our entire supplier network are ready to extend that commitment to delivering these tankers on time and on budget," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
Based on the proven Boeing 767 commercial airplane, the KC-46A Tanker is a widebody, multi-mission aircraft updated with the latest and most advanced technology and capable of meeting or exceeding the Air Force's needs for transport of fuel, cargo, passengers and patients. It includes state-of-the-art systems to meet the demanding mission requirements of the future, including a digital flight deck featuring Boeing 787 Dreamliner electronic displays and a flight control design philosophy that places aircrews in command rather than allowing computer software to limit combat maneuverability.
The NewGen Tanker also features an advanced KC-10 boom with an expanded refueling envelope, increased fuel offload rate and fly-by-wire control system.
 (India Strategic)

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