Are They In or Out?:

Various news reports Friday said that Northrop Grumman likely would pull out of the KC-X tanker replacement program because the Air Force has decided it doesn’t need to alter its final request for proposal—now expected this week. The Northrop-EADS team had been pressing for changes that might offset potential disadvantages of larger size and higher cost of its KC-30 entrant. According to Dow Jones newswires and Business, the Air Force does not intend to make changes to the RFP, so sealing the fate of the KC-30. A Northrop spokesman told the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register that the company had not yet made a decision and would await the final RFP. The question is: Can USAF keep this vital program on tract if Northrop does pull out? Key lawmakers, including Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain, already have warned that the program is in jeopardy without a real competition.