About the USAF’s KC-X contract

Recently, the USAF awarded the KC-X tanker contract to Boeing, whose HQ is located in Chicago. No sooner was this contract award announced that DOD critics, including AmSpec’s Quin Hillyer, claimed that it was awarded dishonestly, that Boeing benefitted from favors from the President and the SECDEF, and that “this rat smells as badly as the sewer it has crawled out of.”

They are wrong on all counts.

Boeing has actually suffered dreadfully under Obama and Gates. These guys have cut, closed or attempted to close many defense programs Boeing profitted from, including the ABL program, the C-17 program, and the FCS program. They have also refused to order any significant number of Boeing’s cheap, combat-proven F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighterplanes. Gates’ predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, cancelled the Boeing E-10MCA AWACS program.

Boeing won this contract fairly; there is no evidence that it has bribed (or unfairly lobbied) any official. Even John McCain, who would’ve been the first to smell any rat (he caught Boeing red-handed bribing the USAF), admitted that this contract was fairly awarded.

EADS’s KC-45 was bigger indeed. But bigger isn’t necessarily better. As the military says, “more is not better; less is not better; only better is better”. The KC-45 is oversized, would’ve required the USAF to enlarge (at a large fiscal cost) many of its runways and hangars, has an excessively large RCS, and gulps so much fuel for itself that it would’ve consumed, during flight operations, so much of its fuel that it could provide too little of it to the aircraft it would be supposed to refuel. KC-767s can use the existing infrastructure, have a smaller RCS, and are fuel-efficient.

Not to be discounted is the fact that of the 8 KC-767s ordered by Japan and Italy to date, 3 have already been delivered, while EADS has not delivered a single KC-45 tanker to anyone.

The Air Force has made the right decision. KC-46 tankers, based on the B767 type, will be built in the US, by American workers, and will serve the USAF well, just like they serve the JSDAF well.


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