Tuesday, April 20, 2010

EADS Confident Its KC-45 Can Compete for USAF Tanker Bid

EADS North America will bid as a prime contractor in the U.S. Air Force's $35 billion KC-X tanker competition, officials from the European defense giant said April 20.
EADS has decided to bid its A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport in the competition to replace the aging U.S. Air Force KC-135. (EADS)
"EADS North America, as prime contractor, will bid on the KC-X competition," said EADS North America Chairman Ralph Crosby during a press conference in Washington. "This is a hell of an opportunity for a company in the big airplane business."

The company said it plans to submit a bid on July 8, taking advantage of the Pentagon's offer to delay bidding by two months to attract EADS to the contest. In the meantime, the company will continue seeking U.S. partners on the program.
EADS came to the decision after reviewing previously classified elements of the KC-X request for proposals (RfP) that convinced them the company's plane could more than meet the 372 mandatory requirements laid out in the RfP, and could meet them for better value than would Boeing's smaller offering, according to Crosby and EADS North America CEO Sean O'Keefe.
Crosby and O'Keefe emphasized that a version of their Airbus A330-based KC-45 tanker is flying and has completed more than 500 hours of flight testing and passed more than 290,000 pounds of fuel to waiting fighters via its boom and hose and drogue systems.
This gives the EADS team a potential edge over Boeing's offering of a modified 767, dubbed the New Generation Tanker, which has not flown or passed fuel, they said.
The Boeing offering could be equipped with the digital flight deck from the Chicago-based company's 787 passenger plane as well as several other features, according to the EADS executives.
"We've got less distance to go" in terms of system design and demonstration than Boeing's potential offering, which has yet to be built, Crosby said.
This means the EADS plane has less chance of running into trouble during its development phase and therefore would need less contingency money saved up for major problems that might emerge during the design of an untested tanker, O'Keefe added.
"We've been there, done that, bought the T-shirt," he said of building the KC-45.
"The development costs of this aircraft will be substantially less than the [New Generation Boeing] tanker," said Crosby. Still, "we've got to beat Boeing's [bid] price, what's that going to be, we'll do our best to try to figure it out," he cautioned.
EADS officials repeatedly referred to the Boeing tanker as a "paper airplane" during the press conference.
The European company will stick to its plan to do final assembly on the tankers at a yet-to-be-built plant in Mobile, Ala., starting with the fourth airplane, according to Crosby.
When asked after the conference if EADS is open to a split tanker buy between it and Boeing, Crosby said his company would deliver whatever the U.S. Air Force wanted as long as the order is larger than the 12 airplanes per year needed for EADS to turn a profit.
EADS' announcement comes after more than a month of deliberation by the company after its erstwhile U.S. partner, Northrop Grumman, dropped out of the contest in early March, claiming the government's solicitation favored rival Boeing's smaller, 767-based offering over EADS-Northrop's Airbus A330-based design.
Since then, EADS has been scrambling to find its own team of U.S. suppliers capable of modifying the A330 into a military tanker as well as getting up to speed on details of the KC-X RfP that had only been shared with former prime contractor Northrop, and preparing to put together a formal response to the RfP.
On March 31, the Defense Department announced it would grant EADS an extension of 60 days to respond to the RfP if the company formally committed to bidding. This came after EADS sent the Pentagon a letter asking for a 90-day extension.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said at the time that the Defense Department would consider shortening its evaluation period for the bids to grant a contract award in early fall to remain consistent with the program's schedule.
The original response date for the RfP, which was issued Feb. 24, was May 10.
On April 6, it was revealed that the European company was in talks with L-3 to be a major supplier in a potential EADS KC-X bid.
During today's press conference, however, Crosby and O'Keefe both denied that the company needs any one company to serve as its main integrator for classified mission equipment. Instead, the European company is still looking at multiple vendors to help integrate mission systems, according to Crosby.
EADS North America has been approved by the National Security Agency to install sensitive military equipment on its aircraft, according to O'Keefe.

Courtesy: Defence Talks 

No comments:

Post a Comment