Air Force KC-X Tanker Aircraft Program: Background and Issues for Congress
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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On September 24, 2009, the Department of Defense DOD announced its proposed strategy for conducting a new competition between Boeing and a team consisting of Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company EADS--the parent company of Airbus for a program to build 179 new KC-X aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force. The estimated total value of the 179-aircraft KC-X program is approximately 35 billion. Boeing is expected to offer a KC-X design based on either its 767 or 777 airliner or two designs, one based on the 767, the other on the 777, while NorthropEADS is expected to offer a KC-X design based on the Airbus A330 airliner. Boeing would build its KC-X in Seattle, WA, and Wichita, KS, while NorthropEADS would build its KC-X in a plant that would be established in Mobile, AL. The KC-X acquisition program is a subject of intense interest among supporters of Boeing and NorthropEADS and other observers because of the dollar value of the contract, the number of jobs it would create, and the importance of tanker aircraft to U.S. military operations, and because previous attempts by DOD to move ahead with a KC-X acquisition program over the last several years have led to controversy and ultimately failed. DODs proposed new KC-X acquisition strategy poses several potential oversight issues for Congress, including whether DOD has adequately defined the required capabilities for the KC-X, whether DODs proposed method for evaluating the Boeing and NorthropEADS bids against those requirements is fair and transparent, whether a September 4 World Trade Organization WTO preliminary ruling on commercial aircraft subsidies should be taken into account in evaluating the KC-X bids, whether the Air Force should be in charge of the new KC-X competition, and whether DOD should consider splitting the KC-X program between Boeing and NorthropEADS.
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