Boeing’s 767 is smaller than the Northrop-EADS KC-30, giving it an edge in being able to fit into smaller airfields, a boon for the KC-X’s flip side job of hauling cargo and troops into today’s operating environment. That alternate mission, though, is highly prized by many lawmakers and perhaps gives an edge to the KC-30, which will be able to haul more fuel and cargo per trip. In general, the larger KC-30 (based on EADS Airbus 330) should cost more than the KC-767, however Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson speculates that Northrop-EADS will keep the price artificially low—offset by European government subsidies—to remain competitive. Remember, this program potentially is worth $40 billion for the first 179 aircraft and more than twice that by the time USAF buys all the new tankers it needs.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.