The USA’s aerial tanker fleet is the backbone of American global air power, but its youngest KC-135 planes were built over 40 years ago. Replacing them is the USAF’s #1 priority, and the initial KC-X phase of 175 operational aircraft amounts to a $35 billion buy. When EADS Airbus and Northrop Grumman’s A330 MRTT was picked over Boeing’s KC-767 on Feb 29/08, therefore, the shockwaves were felt around the world.
The most recent event has sent shockwaves of its own, however, and deserves its own depth coverage. As everyone predicted, the losing firm immediately launched a protest with the Congressional Government Accountability Office. The GAO has no power to compel the Air Force, but the US military usually works to comply with GAO decisions in order to minimize political difficulties. Those difficulties have just increased significantly, however, as the GAO sustains Boeing’s protest and pours fuel on the smoldering discontent among many Congressional representatives. The implications extend beyond the USA’s borders, and into the global defense industry as a whole. Now, the full decision has been released – and the Air Force may be about to try to bull its way through to an award by the end of the year, using the same playbook it tried the CSAR-X helicopter contract…
- The Summary
- The GAO Release
- The Full Decision [NEW]
- The Way Ahead: Analysis [updated]
- Additional Readings & Sources