Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tanker Anecdote

Disclaimer: I don't have a dog in the seemingly-endless Boeing/EADS tanker battle. I am very happy to report that I don't work for any of the various companies that have been competing for that next-generation tanker contract for what seems like decades now. That said, I did want to pass along this true story from the relatively-early days of KC-X.

Several years back, before the original Air Force tanker contract winner was announced (EADS, with the senior partner being France's Airbus), an exceptionally senior Air Force official made the following observations--paraphrased from memory here--one afternoon in a squadron bar:

"Here's what's gonna happen: Airbus is gonna win. Boeing's bid is way out of bed. They think it's a slam-dunk, and they got greedy, and what's worse, they were lucky they were even allowed to bid after Darleen Druyun. So they're gonna lose . And then everybody will freak out because the prime isn't an American company, so there'll be a s**t-storm in Congress, and there'll be a challenge, and the contract will get tossed out. Then we'll start over, and go through all this again, and it'll be set up for Boeing this time, and they'll win.

"And then it'll be six or seven years later, and we still won't have any tankers, and the ones we do finally buy will cost twice as much."

Those long-ago predictions have been correct all the way down the line. The latest: Boeing officially won the re-compete today.


  1. And now that Boeing finally has it in the bag, the program cost over runs start skyrocketing in ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

  2. I posted a short closing note on this story at my place earlier. Just changed the link from a commercial/trade news site to yours as the source. Your quote from memory sums things up perfectly. I would only clarify that Northrop Grumman was the KC-45 prime contractor doing the new and hard stuff with EADS as the associate contractor providing the carcass the first time around.

  3. So the USAF guy called it. And everybody - EVERYBODY - else has been acting like it's this big suspenseful deal with things "hinging" on this or "depending" on that and then the deal goes down as planned a decade earlier except a lot of concierges, hookers, and lobbyists are a lot richer and here come the overruns to pay for it all.