The Reckoning

The Air Force faces “a political minefield” in choosing the winner of its $40 billion KC-X tanker contest, regardless of whether it opts for Boeing’s KC-767 or Northrop Grumman’s KC-30, writes Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. “If the Northrop plane wins,” he states, “buy-America sentiment will surge on Capitol Hill, potentially blocking a purchase.” Conversely, Thompson says, “If the Boeing plane wins, legislators from the South whose region stood to benefit from tanker assembly will seek to split the buy between both teams.” Ultimately the Air Force will get its new tanker aircraft in the end, but “there is no guarantee,” he writes, that the KC-X airplanes will reach the fleet before the Eisenhower-era KC-135s they will replace begin failing. USAF anticipates announcing the winner around February, but officials have said the service will not rush its decision.