Korea Chooses Airbus Tanker over KC-46

Airbus’ A330 multi-role tanker transport has beaten Boeing’s KC-46 in Korea’s first aerial tanker competition, it was announced late June 30. The Korean deal is worth about $1.33 billion, and covers four aircraft—the first of which is to be delivered in 2019—plus support. Korea’s defense ministry said Airbus won based on price (the Euro is trading nearly level with the US dollar), performance, and size of the aircraft, which will perform as both a tanker and transport. Korea will join Australia, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates as MRTT users. France is certain to replace its aged KC-135s with the homegrown Airbus, and India has signaled it will buy the MRTT as well. A consortium of The Netherlands, Norway, and Poland has also requested MRTT pricing. Boeing had high hopes for the Korean deal, and a spokesman said that while the company is “disappointed … we remain committed to our partnerships with Korea.” Korea operates Boeing’s F-15K and a version of the USAF F-15E with significant improvements in radar. This is the second big disappointment for Boeing in Korean military aircraft competitions. Last year, Korea selected the F-35 as its next fighter, having previously settled on a variant of Boeing’s F-15S Silent Eagle; however, it re-opened the competition, which the F-35 won.