Boeing and Northrop Grumman continue unabated to vie to win the public relations campaign for their respective KC-767 Advanced Tanker and KC-30 Tanker aircraft as the Air Force nears the decision on which of them will be its next-generation KC-X aerial refueling platform. Boeing announced on Feb. 19 that it has delivered the first of four KC-767 tankers to Japan. “The KC-767 will have an immediate impact and significantly increase Japan’s capabilities,” said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. Albaugh also took the opportunity to tie delivery of the Japanese tanker to the KC-X by noting the milestone as indicative of Boeing’s continued standing “as the world’s leading provider” of tankers. Following in-country acceptance, Boeing said it will deliver the second Japanese KC-767. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman said its KC-30 is 20 percent more capable than the KC-767 when applying the Air Force’s own integrated fleet air refueling assessment evaluation model that is one of the key determinants in the selection process. “Air Force methodology for calculating IFARA clearly shows the KC-30 is superior to the less capable KC-767 AT,” Paul Meyer, Northrop Grumman VP and general manager of the KC-30 Tanker program, said in the company’s Feb. 18 release. “Contrary to Boeing’s computations and assertions, these are not formulas devised by Northrop Grumman to favor Northrop Grumman in this competition, but rather are capabilities-based evaluation criteria established by the Air Force to help it select the best platform for the warfighter.” Northrop Grumman said its assessment of the Air Force’s model shows that the KC-30 scores a 1.62, compared to the KC-676’s 1.35 when assigning the KC-135, the aircraft that KC-X will replace, a baseline score of 1.0. Air Force officials have said they could announce the winner of the multi-billion contest by the end of the month.
Unlike nearly every other innovative technology throughout history, Maj. Gen. DeAnna M. Burt believes the space enterprise emerged backward. “Every other domain started with an entrepreneur who built something,” Burt, the special assistant to the Chief of Space Operations, told an audience at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference.