The Boeing Co. (Chicago, Ill.), which lost out to the Northrop Grumman (Los Angeles, Calif.)/EADS (Brussels, Belgium) consortium on the $40 billion U.S. Air Force contract to build the new KC-45 tanker, is considering a formal protest of the decision while U.S. lawmakers weigh in on the wisdom of having a military plane built by a foreign company.
The U.S. Air Force, for its part, says the goal in selecting a builder for the new tanker was to pick the best and most efficient design, no matter the origin. The Air Force also says that it wanted to make the award process as transparent as possible so as to avoid actual or apparent favoritism or collusion with the two bidding companies. Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne last week described the Northrop/EADS design, based on the Airbus A330 plane, as “clearly” better than the Boeing 767-based design in the key criteria used to evaluate the proposals. Representatives in the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate, enraged that such a large and long-term contract was awarded to a foreign company, have challenged the Air Force’s decision. Some lawmakers have threatened to take action themselves, including withholding funds for the project.
Northrop Grumman, for its part, issued a statement, emphasizing where and how the KC-45 will be manufactured. The tanker, it says, will support more than 25,000 jobs in the U.S. with a U.S. supplier base of 230 companies in 49 states. Assembly of the KC-45 will be done in Mobile, Ala., at a facility that will, says Northrop, “insource” 2,000 jobs from Europe. Northrop also says 60 percent of the KC-45 will be comprised of U.S. content.