Print
Email
>
>
9 Secrets of the Tanker War
<< Previous
Next >>

9 Secrets of the Tanker War

9 Secrets of the Tanker War

Replacing America's Aerial Refueling Tankers with KC-X

$35 Billion Contract


USAF Combat Camera

KC-135s like this one have been flying since the 1960s

The Air Force has been waiting nearly 10 years for a program to start replacing some of its KC-135 tanker aircraft, which were built from 1957 to 1965.
Right now, the Pentagon is evaluating bids from Boeing and EADS North America for a new aerial refueling tanker plane called KC-X. They say they’ll award the $35 billion contract in November, but it may take weeks or months more.
This tanker war has turned into one of the longest and most complicated acquisitions ever, with lots of heated debate about jobs, trade disputes, etc.
Today I’m releasing a short white paper called 9 Secrets of the Tanker War. Having watched the drama unfold for many years, I wanted to puncture some of the myths and point out some major operational considerations, like the importance of air refueling to conventional deterrence in the Pacific – a job American airpower and seapower will have to do for decades to help ensure China’s peaceful rise.
Secret #1 is no secret – the Boeing vs EADS North America competition was bound to get loud and noisy. Boeing and EADS, maker of the Airbus jetliners, compete like undernourished tigers. They fight over every commercial sale, and that’s perfectly normal in the business.
The fuss about a “foreign” plane is harder to understand. First, there’s nothing remarkable about a European company competing with an American one. The US has several military aircraft which are converted European designs – like the Italian-born Alenia C-27J Spartan light cargo plane or the UH-72 Lakota helicopter, which began life as the Eurocopter.
Nor will either bidder go under without a KC-X win. The overall market for airliners is very robust. EADS predicts global demand for 24,097 new commercial aircraft from now through 2028, so neither bidder is going under without a KC-X win.
The two bidders come in about even on creating American jobs: Boeing estimates 50,000 at full production, while EADS estimates 48,000 jobs for Americans. Most of these will be with supplier firms making everything from engines to laminates to fasteners.
More delays on KC-X only hurt the joint force. “Without tankers, we’re not global,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz. The reach of American military power depends on aerial refueling tankers to deploy ground forces and top off fighters and bombers attacking targets and to keep vital surveillance and communications planes in the sky longer. That’s vital for the wars we are in – and for national security tomorrow.

Return to All Things Pentagon
<< Previous
Next >>
Copyright © 2010 IRIS Independent Research. All rights reserved.
Website design by Borcz:Dixon | Powered by Agency of Record