After a multi-hour debriefing from the Air Force Friday, Boeing appears to be inching closer to filing a legal protest with the Government Accountability Office over how USAF evaluated the company’s KC-767 in the multi-billion-dollar KC-X tanker contest that rival Northrop Grumman won on Feb. 29. Mark McGraw, Boeing’s KC-767 program manager, said in the company’s March 7 release Boeing officials left the meeting “with significant concerns” about the Air Force’s evaluation process, including “program requirements related to capabilities, cost, and risk, evaluation of the bids, and the ultimate decision.” He said Boeing will now “work through the weekend” to come to a decision early next week on its next course of action. The company said it “will give serious consideration to filing a protest,” with McGraw noting that Boeing “never takes lightly” protesting decisions of its customers. Claims in the media that the Northrop’s KC-30 bid won over the KC-767 by a wide margin “could not be more inaccurate,” he said. But Air Force officials, too, have stated publicly that the Northrop proposal was clearly the best. For example, Air Force acquisition executive Sue Payton told lawmakers March 5 “Northrop Grumman brought their ‘A game.’” Meanwhile, Northrop has come out to counter what it says are inaccurate portrayals of its winning KC-30 tanker, designated the KC-45A by USAF, and its teaming arrangement that includes European aircraft maker Airbus as a principal subcontractor. The KC-45A program will “create a new aerospace manufacturing corridor” in the southeastern United States and “helps return competitiveness to the US aerospace industry,” the company said. Further, Northrop points out, no jobs are transferred from the United States to France or any other foreign country and approximately 60 percent of the new tanker will be US content. “It is America’s tanker,” the company said.
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.