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Analyst says Airbus tanker was 'superior' on all counts

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By Dominic Gates

03-03-2008

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Boeing was comprehensively beaten on almost every aspect of the competition

for the $40 billion Air Force tanker contract awarded Friday, according to a

report published Monday by a defense analyst with close Pentagon

connections.

If so, Boeing may have only the slimmest chance of reversing the victory of

Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent company EADS.

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, issued a

memo Monday that discussed the outcome based on "weekend conversations with

government officials intimately familiar" with the Air Force decision.

On the five specific criteria used to decide the winner, Thompson wrote,

"Northrop Grumman's victory was not a close outcome. ... The Northrop-EADS

offering was deemed much better in virtually all regards."

Responding to the firestorm criticism about the award, the Pentagon's chief

weapons buyer, undersecretary of defense for acquisition John Young, issued

a statement Monday saying a team of independent civilian and military

analysts appointed by him would vouch that the Air Force "conducted a very

open, fair and detailed competition process."

Those two assessments suggest Boeing's hope of a reversal of the award may

now rest on largely political grounds — opposition to the outsourcing of

U.S. jobs on a government defense contract.

The Air Force had scheduled its first formal briefing to Boeing for March

12, a couple of days before Congress' Easter recess.

But a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers from Washington state and Kansas —

including Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats from

Washington; and Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both Kansas

Republicans, called Monday on Defense Secretary Robert Gates to debrief

Boeing this week on the decision.

Both Democratic presidential contenders, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack

Obama, criticized the award Monday.

Thompson, who last week used his government contacts to call the surprise

outcome of the tanker contest an hour before the official announcement, said

in an interview Monday that Air Force officials "were very convinced early

on that there were problems with the Boeing proposal."

According to his conversations with officials, said Thompson, "Northrop

offered a superior proposal in every measure and Boeing simply did not do a

competent job of presenting its case."

The Northrop proposal, which put forward the much bigger A330 against the

767, even swung the Air Force around from its original thinking.

 

"The Air Force started out believing that the larger aircraft was a

liability," Thompson said. "Northrop did such a superior job of analysis

that they convinced a reluctant Air Force to treat the larger aircraft as an

asset."

His memo listed the five key criteria as capability, risk, past performance,

cost and "integrated fleet aerial refueling assessment," a score from a

computer model that measures performance in various war scenarios.

"Boeing didn't manage to beat Northrop in a single measure of merit,"

Thompson wrote.

The two proposals were assessed as equal on the perceived risk that the

contractor would not perform as required.

By every other measure, Northrop won. On past performance, the big delays to

the Japanese and Italian 767 tanker programs weighed heavily against Boeing,

Thompson said.

And Thompson, who was considered by EADS to favor Boeing in the competition,

added this damning endnote to his memo:

"The reviewers concluded that if they funded the Northrop Grumman proposal

they could have 49 superior tankers operating by 2013, whereas if they

funded the Boeing proposal, they would have only 19 considerably less

capable planes in that year."

Scott Hamilton, an Issaquah-based analyst who has long considered the

Northrop-EADS proposal superior, described that bottom line as "astounding."

Hamilton criticized Boeing's public-relations campaign during the contest

for focusing on aspects such as the creation of U.S. jobs and government

subsidies to EADS, rather than the merits of the two planes.

"Boeing doesn't seem to have a leg to stand on for a successful protest,"

said Hamilton. "I think that [local] anger really ought to be directed at

Boeing for putting together such a poor proposal."

Although the Northrop-EADS tanker will be assembled in Mobile, Ala., the

major A330 airframe sections will still be built in Europe and shipped

across the Atlantic.

Boeing declined to comment Monday as it awaits its debriefing from the

Pentagon. But reaction to the political elements of the contest continued to

build Monday.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Monday he hadn't made up his mind on the

outcome of the contract award.

McCain, the likely Republican nominee for president, helped scuttle a

previous 2001 deal that gave the contract to Boeing.

"Having investigated the tanker lease scandal a few years ago, I have always

insisted that the Air Force buy major weapons through fair and open

competition," McCain told The Associated Press. "I will be interested to

learn how the Air Force came to its contract award decision here and whether

it fairly applied its own rules in arriving at that decision."

Obama, of Illinois, expressed disappointment Sunday that Chicago-based

Boeing lost out.

Obama said it was hard for him to believe "that having an American company

that has been a traditional source of aeronautical excellence would not have

done this job."

Clinton, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she

was "deeply concerned about the Bush administration's decision to outsource

the production of refueling tankers for the American military."

While details of the decision are not fully clear, Clinton said, "it is

troubling that the Bush administration would award the second-largest

Pentagon contract in our nation's history to a team that includes a European

firm that our government is simultaneously suing at the [World Trade

Organization] for receiving illegal subsidies."

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

Material from The Associated Press was included in this story.

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You know, this kind of double talk from politicos pisses me off. How many times have I heard 'make the right decision' but as long as it doesn't affect my district.

 

I hate to say this, but Boeing deserves getting their ass handed to them. After trying to game the system, and getting caught at it, they still couldn't get their act together and make a real proposal. This tells me they haven't learned their lesson yet.

 

Get serious and do some real innovation, like the 787 promises to be.

 

FastCargo

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I can't help it, but it seems to me that some politcians that are quoted in this report seem to be more concerned about fishing for votes than the actual matter, which is getting the best equipment for the armed forces.

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If your district gets the jobs, you laud the decision. If your district loses the jobs, you criticize the decision. It always works that way.

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I agree with FastCargo.

I think Boeing was figuring it would get the contract just because it was an "American" company.

It sounds like EADS and N-G came to the game ready to play hardball and Boeing never left the locker room.

Now their blaming McCain just because he found Boeing and a few Air Force personnel with their hands in the cookie jar a few years ago.

Corporate execs are just like politicians:let's find someone else to blame.

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Why are they bringing McCain, Obama, and Clinton in to this? It isn't like how they thought about the Tanker Contract will effect their campaign.

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Yeah that's why politics never went well with anything. Figures that when somebody else gets the contract, people will always whine, and it being election year... all the same. Besides I may not be in the Air Force, I would expect some reliable tanker planes floating around, I mean I'm going to Afghanistan, so I'd like them to fuel the jets I'll be calling in for CAS!!

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I agree with FastCargo.

I think Boeing was figuring it would get the contract just because it was an "American" company.

It sounds like EADS and N-G came to the game ready to play hardball and Boeing never left the locker room.

Now their blaming McCain just because he found Boeing and a few Air Force personnel with their hands in the cookie jar a few years ago.

Corporate execs are just like politicians:let's find someone else to blame.

 

Love to be a fly on the wall at Boeing military after the announcement. Bunch of fat cats standing around wondering when their time is to put their neck on the block. They don't understand that that time arrived about two years ago when they started putting their plan together. I still hate to lose jobs to the European companies, but looks kind of good for Alabama. Congratulations to NG and to our military for the decision. Business as usual may have moved a bit. We shall see if the politicans will really move this back across the pond. Aren't they fun to watch squirm and aren't they soooooo predictable.

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I have said it already in the other thread about this topic, I doubt that the decision in favor of NG/EADS will survive.

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Yeah, considering we'll probably see a democrat president next the superior plane will get axed in favor of traditional protectionism.

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I will be interesting cause of production problems of EADS. The A380 is manufactured in many factorys and in different europe countries and assembled in one. It`s called just in time production to minimise the costs. It`s great to see this contract...

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It is my understanding that the Boeing company does not make everything on a conveyor belt in Kansas either; rather, several production facilities and even some not in Anytown, USA, were to be involved.

 

If Congress reverses the decision, it will be yet another nail in the coffin for the post-Modern USAF's credibility and political clout.

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Boeings production credibility isn't looking too good right now though - apart from the problems with the Italian/Japanese 767 tankers it looks like the 787 has slipped another 6 months or so.

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Boeing's deal to loose...and they lost it. Historically speaking, these guys delivered some of the best heavy a/c the US has ever and still does service, but if they thought that reputation alone guaranteed them a sale for KC-X, they're dead wrong.

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The same with airbus and their new baby the A380

indeed but A380 is in production & in service - the 787 hasn't even done engine test runs afaik let alone done a test flight.

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Where is the prob to get the tankers from Airbus???

 

"Not built here" ... not really a new problem, though. Nor is it something that exists only in the US. :rolleyes:

 

If you check out NG's website for their KC-30 tanker, you will notice that they hardly ever mention that their aircraft is in fact an Airbus. :wink:

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I love how well Boeing is taking it :haha: Typical ! Well, it's a free market and the market has spoken.

Edited by Atreides

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"Not built here" ... not really a new problem, though. Nor is it something that exists only in the US. :rolleyes:

 

If you check out NG's website for their KC-30 tanker, you will notice that they hardly ever mention that their aircraft is in fact an Airbus. :wink:

 

Well... technically it's a smaller problem if you look hard enough. While yes the "not invented/built here" syndrome exists, I hardly think that it's good for the military. While foreign equipment is not as widespread use, here's a few examples of foreign equipment (least in the US Army anyways):

 

120mm Smoothbore M1A1/2 Main Gun = Rhein Metall: Basically there was nothing better on the market, and as the name suggests, license produced from ze Germans.

Some British Engineer Vehicle = Alvis comes to mind for some reason, but is AFAIK a British design that is used in the Engineer Battalions, if my info is correct.

Fox (Fuchs) Chemical Recon Vehicle, yet another vehicle from ze Germans

AT-4 shoulder fired AT Rocket = Bofors Sweden, you can even find the FFV serial number if you know where to look

XM320: Heckler & Koch design, replacing the M203 eventually.

M240B/M249 Machine Guns: Fabrique Nationale, produced here in the good ol' US of A. Belgian design.

M416: Heckler & Koch, basically a more reliable version of the M4, finding use among CAG (Combined Action Group, formally known as Delta Force).

Thales, a French communications company, we use the MBITR

 

Joint Strike Fighter: While yes, this is a multinational project, it's apparent that even US aerospace engineers need some Euro help, particularly of course since those European nations are wanting the JSF.

AGM-142 Popeye... Not sure but is of Israel design or least produced for the Israelis, I'm not actually sure as my own info is really sketchy.

Durandul: The wonderful retarded anti-runway bomb, French design.

K-36 was tested for JSF, Russian ejection seat.

Kh-31 missile shell considered for CIWS system development against supersonic targets, Russian design

 

There's plenty more hanging 'round but that should be a good start.

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While the partner nations have had input on what capabilities the JSF should have for the price, I hesistate to say any "help" was needed other than funding and production commitments on it. Also, the JSF could have proceeded without said "help" quite readily, it just probably would've faced cancellation more easily if not for the multinational ties!

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just my slightly (ok, heavily) biased 2 cents, but I wouldn't feel comfortable refueling from an airbus, or for that matter, flying in the immediate area of one.

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I hesistate to say any "help" was needed other than funding and production commitments on it.

 

I know QuinetQ have done a lot of work on the flight control system for the V/STOL version which is based on a long running (decades?) programme in the UK. That and an auto land system for ship board use. I'm not saying it couldn't have been developed in the US, but it would have meant re-inventing the wheel.

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