Air Force Awards Boeing KC-46 Aerial Refueling Tanker Contract


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Air Force Awards Boeing KC-46 Aerial Refueling Tanker Contract

By Daniel Baxter

February 25, 2011 - Air Force and Defense Department officials announced the award of an engineering and manufacturing development contract valued at more than $3.5 billion for the KC-46A aerial refueler to The Boeing Company on Thursday.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said in the briefing that many factors were evaluated during the tanker selection process. (See Sen. Shelby Alarmed French Company Not Awarded KC-46 Contract)

"This selection process determined whether or not the proposals demonstrated the ability of an offerer to deliver all 372 mandatory requirements and whether non-mandatory capabilities would be addressed," said Secretary Donley, emphasizing that both offerers met the mandatory requirements.

"It also took into account fleet mission effectiveness in wartime, and life cycle costs as embodied in fuel efficiency and military construction costs." Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn noted the "competition favored no one except the taxpayer and the warfighter." The Air Force-led selection effort included experts from the larger DOD community, including staff from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and independent review teams during each step of the process. 

The thorough and transparent selection process was marked by continual dialogue with offerers to ensure the Air Force had a clear understanding of their proposals and the companies clearly understood the service's analysis of their offers, said Secretary Donley. 

Secretary Donley also highlighted that the warfighter was in charge of stating the requirements for the tanker, and that meeting those requirements enables the aircraft to go to war on day one. "General Schwartz and I are confident in the fact that when our young pilots, boom operators and maintainers receive this aircraft, they will have the tools they need to be successful at what we ask them to do," the secretary added.  

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz shared the secretary's sentiment. "I'm pleased with how this has produced an outcome after an exhaustive effort by hundreds of the department's very best people, that we will get about delivering the capability that's long overdue," General Schwartz said.


While the focus of the briefing was on the award of the contract, Secretary Donley addressed basing considerations for the aircraft, stating that those decisions involve other organizations and will take place over the next couple of years. Secretary Donley also reiterated the service's commitment to provide quality equipment to the warfighter. 

"To the men and women of our Air Force, today's announcement represents a long-overdue start to a much-needed program," Secretary Donley said. "Your Air Force leadership, supported by Dr. (Ashton) Carter and others throughout the Department of Defense, is determined to see this through, and we will stand behind this work." 

Air Force and DOD officials complemented both offerers and thanked congressional oversight committees and their staffs for working with the department during the contract process that served the warfighter and taxpayers well. EADS North America officials expressed disappointment and concern over the announcement by the U.S. Air Force that it had selected ?a high-risk, concept aircraft over the proven, more capable KC-45 for the nation?s next aerial refueling tanker? said EADS. 

?This is certainly a disappointing turn of events, and we look forward to discussing with the Air Force how it arrived at this conclusion,? said EADS North America Chairman Ralph D. Crosby, Jr. ?For seven years our goal has been to provide the greatest capability to our men and women in uniform, and to create American jobs by building the KC-45 here in the U.S. We remain committed to those objectives.? If selected, EADS North America had committed to build the KC-45 at a new production facility in Mobile, Alabama, with a U.S. supplier base of nearly a thousand American companies. 


?With a program of such complexity, our review of today?s decision will take some time,? Crosby said. ?There are more than 48,000 Americans who are eager to build the KC-45 here in the U.S., and we owe it to them to conduct a thorough analysis.? 

?Though we had hoped for a different outcome, it?s important to remember that this is one business opportunity among many for EADS in the United States,? said Sean O?Keefe, CEO of EADS North America.

?We have exceptional technology and highly capable platforms that will be invaluable to U.S. military forces, now and in the future. We have learned much through this process, developed a world-class organization in the U.S. and have earned the respect of the Department of Defense. Our commitment to our U.S. customers is stronger than ever.?

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