Why Airbus Tanker Beat Boeing


The Air Force says Northrop-Grummans proposal for a new aerial refueling aircraft based on the Airbus A330 was simply better than Boeings 767-based plan. Documents quoted by the Seattle Post Intelligencer say the Air Force will need 22 fewer Airbuses because its more efficient at refueling and has a faster turnaround time than the 767. The Boeing had the edge in communications, some aerial refueling capabilities and combat survivability. It all added up to a close competition that the Air Force suggests may have been tipped by the business skills of the two bidders.

While Northrops past performance on Air Force contracts was judged as satisfactory, the Air Force assessment team said it had little confidence in Boeings ability to get the job done on time and on budget. Boeing spokesman Bill Barksdale told the PI that Boeings previous problems on defense contracts were overemphasized in the tanker bid and didnt take into account the lessons learned on those projects.