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No Domestic Aircraft Producers

David Freddoso has some thoughts on Boeing's loss of the tanker contract, and free trade.



K wrote:

What happens if a war threatens our ability to make airplanes in the most economically sensible way? We change our priorities, of course. We proved in World War II that our domestic industry could go from near-zero to 60 overnight. Aviation, the 41st largest industry in the United States in 1939, had become the largest of all by 1945.

The scope and depth of this guy's ignorance of modern American military defense and aerospace production is just truly awe inspiring.

So lets just pass that and say this. Europe is going ahead with spending billions on the Galileo Navsat system even though they get free GPS from the US. Why? Because they can't assume the US will let them use it in any future war. Why, then, should the US trust France et al to supply the planes and spare parts necessary to keep the tankers flying? Or if some war emergency requires continuing the tanker production line beyond what's ordered now?

And all because the AF wants another slap at Boeing for the Darleen Druyun affair.

The tanker specifications were set up for the 767. The AF was directed (with the very public help of John McCain) to include the Airbus 330 as a viable option so they changed the specifications. Having been involved in this phase of other procurements, it would be straightforward for the "customer" to take whomever they wanted to by simply manipulating the information in a timely manner and the use of between the lines "hints" to each contestant. This is, in effect, is what Boeing says happened.

Ergo Boeing loses, Airbus wins. Personally, I think Boeing should just take their spanking and shut up.

I'm surprised that more mainstream media are not on top of this, particular as it also involves McCain's cronies as Airbus lobbyists:

mz wrote:

I pity the poor French, British and German taxpayers who have to finance these tankers to the US air force, since Airbus is a subsidy operation. Sly move from USAF. I haven't seen this aspect advertised, most europeans have rejoiced in the commentaries that "we beat the competition".

I don't claim to be an expert or know for sure which one is a better aircraft, but at least A330 is a newer airframe model. 767:s are being retired in Mojave already.

Insert talk about pretending free markets and competitions when many things can be rigged up and there are subsidies and national interests and security at play here and there.

Boeing will get the larger tanker deal with a 777 presumably then.

Dick Eagleson wrote:

The A330 is newer than the 767, as a design, but what counts is that all the airframes and engines would be new manufacture in either case.

There seem to be two big reasons EADS got the contract. One, they can allegedly produce over twice as many KC-45 airframes per year as Boeing can KC-767's. Given the bureaucratic and corruption-based screwups and delays that have attended this acquisition, such a disparity in production rates is now important for getting the U.S. a new tanker fleet before the oldest KC-135's start disintegrating in midair. Two, the KC-45 flies farther and hauls more gas. From a performance spec standpoint, the KC-767 is roughly equivalent to the KC-135 now doddering toward retirement. The KC-45 has a quarter more capacity and even longer range.

Given that they've had plenty of time to do the engineering, Boeing's smart move would have been to abandon the KC-767 proposal years ago after l'affaire Druyun and make a new one based on the 777 airframe. Civilian passenger and freighter versions of this bird have the longest ranges and most efficient mass hauling specs of any large airframe in current production. A 777ER-based tanker would outperform the EADS KC-45 and the currently-in-service KC-10 as well. The only thing I see driving the lack of such a proposal is a probable desire on Boeing's part to keep the busy, and expensive, 777 line going 100% doing more profitable civilian airliners and freighters while handling the government job as an extra end-of-life kicker for the 767 tooling, for which there is no longer any more profitable civilian production demand with which to compete.

The fact that Boeing evidently thought they could do this, and on their own quite leisurely schedule, speaks to the presence of an ingrown monopoly take-it-or-leave-it mentality that richly deserved the DoD foot recently applied to its fundament. Heeeelloooo! You're not the only large airframe maker in the world!

Leland wrote:

Good write up, Dick. That's the way I understood the situation. I've also heard that USAF made a suggestion for the Boeing 777 and was told, "it would take up too much ramp space". Boeing needs to learn the difference between requirements and selection criteria.

This is the 3rd big loss I can recall, and the 2nd loss to a foreign competition of a US military acquisition (JSF, Marine 1, now this... doesn't include CEV which is space and non-military). The competition has consistently provided more product with a better proposed schedule. For a military in need of new equipment and facing long acquisition times, the money is on them selecting the most for the least and not the least that is less.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on March 14, 2008 2:52 PM.

An Equine Aria was the previous entry in this blog.

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