Jockeying for Position

After some schedule slips, Boeing announced yesterday that it has received FAA certification for Japan’s first KC-767 tanker. This, the company said, clears the way for the aircraft’s delivery to its Japanese customer in the next month or so—along with Japan’s second of four KC-767s on order—and thereby strengthening its position in the Air Force’s KC-X tanker contest. “This is a huge step forward for us on international tankers,” said the company’s tanker spokesman Bill Barksdale. “And every flight, every accomplishment on international tankers reduces risk for the Air Force in the KC-X competition. No matter what our competitor may say, this clearly demonstrates our ability to work through challenging issues and deliver to a customer.” Boeing is pitting the KC-767 in the multi-billion-dollar KC-X contest against the Northrop Grumman/EADS KC-30, a version of the Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport that has been undergoing flight-testing for the Royal Australian Air Force. Northrop and EADS emphasize that they have not suffered the same schedule difficulties on the international scene that Boeing has had in developing the KC-767 for Japan and also Italy. The Air Force’s announcement of the winning KC-X design is expected no sooner than around the end of this month.