ILSM on Why Airbus Tanker Won the USAF Development Contract

This post is by ILSM…

Loren Thompson, Conservative Think Tank, Lexington Institute and Airbus apologist relates some of the reasons the Air Force selected the Airbus.

Thompson Says:

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.

What does “if” and “could” mean? The idea of “funded” does that leave Northrop Grumman and Airbus to come back some time in the future when they have not delivered and say the Air Force did not “fund” the program well? Given revelations about the Joint Strike Fighter over runs, delays and lost capability which are common for systems in development for the US DoD the Air Force relies on Europe’s amazing and illegally subsidized commitment. The A330 refueler has flown for less than one year. Northrop Grumman proposed to develop 4 preproduction tankers for $1.5B and 45 more in just 5 years. Given the challenges I do not think Northrop Grumman will do satisfactory engineering and deliver these airplanes from a new plant in Mobile, Alabama as promised. The Air Force may have thought the Boeing proposal unimaginative; it is far more realistic, uses the word “would” and is from historic performance very optimistic to promise to deliver 19 aircraft in 5 years.

It is irresponsible to think that Northrop Grumman and Airbus can deliver the capability in 49 aircraft in 5 years.

The Airbus plan appears, on the surface, to not follow 10 USC 2400 Low Rate Initial Production, which addresses the quantity of systems to be procured in order to determine if the system is operationally effective and suitable. The law limits the quantity to one or more system up to 10 percent. Boeing offers the 10%. Northrop Grumman would need Sec Def waiver to build more than 18 aircraft above the 4 development models. This is sort of funny, how Boeing would follow the law and Northrop Grumman would get points for going around the law. One could ask how Northrop Grumman knew they could offer more than the legal quantity. Interesting!!

And does the US taxpayer subsidize Airbus for the inevitable delays? Or do the French? How does the Air Force keep the flow of tax dollars going to Europe for delays and over runs? What do the taxpayers say when the thing costs too much and does not perform? Does the DoD go to the world court? How does a government contracting officer attempt to recoup progress payments not earned from a foreign company? It is bad enough for domestic failures but outsourcing such risky business is ridiculous.

Next what does “superior” mean? Is it worth the 25% higher flyaway cost per airplane? Is the Airbus more functional, reliable, easy and cheap to keep operating? Is there a specification that Northrop Grumman and Airbus are to work toward or is superior equal to just what they deliver with waivers and deviations to technical performance? Will the Air Force monitor testing and take action when Airbus does not deliver the performance? Will the Air Force comply with 10 USC 2399 and open its testing so that the Sec Def will honestly certify that the Airbus is suitable and effective prior to building aircraft beyond the illegitimate low rate production quantity?

“Superior” and “less capable”; “could” or “would” are troublesome words when used to sell $40B worth of spending most of it going to France.

On the surface it seems the Air Force is cutting many corners. Why?

Does Northrop Grumman have insiders similar to what Boeing had 5 years ago?

This one was by ILSM.