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Feb 29, 2008


ifnab oiram

Fro what I've seen, the only reason they went back to the drawingboard to have a comparison of the two tanker systems (KC45/KC767) was so they (the DOD) could quietly slide the 767 tankers back into Congress as the only rational alternative. When the selection team turned around and effectively said they wouldn't lie for Boing, er, the White House, in effect saying "you asked us to compare them: the KC45 wins. We did our jobs according to law.", they threw a monkey wrench into Boing's new plan.

The question still remains: do we need a new tanker, or just a rework of the old 135s and KC-10s? Almost every cargo aircraft in USAF could use a few new "presents", like:
-- a GPS-Based worldwide Navigation System;
-- an anti-SAM system
-- an Enhanced navaids package

Intead of giving the crews what they need, they give Boing a new Christmas present their prior acquisition history proves they haven't earned, and then take the vital equipment away from the crews to bring down the costs.

Greg Williams

All the gnashing of teeth over the vendor selection for this purchase seems to overlook the fundamental question of whether we need $100 billion worth of new tankers. I sent the following letter to the Seattle Post Intelligencer (which though otherwise poorly-reported, did have a nice quote from Danielle Brian):

Dear PI Editors,

Your articles on the Air Force decision to purchase tankers from Northrop/EADS rather than Boeing fails to address a fundamental question: Why are we spending $100 billion on new tankers when we have other pressing issues like a sluggish economy and soldiers in combat lacking appropriate body and vehicle armor.

I understand that the local angle of Boeing and its workers is critical to a Seattle paper, but you almost seem to purposely avoid the most basic question of the story – whether we need new tankers at all. For example, while you provide specs for both the new (KC-45A and KC-767) and old (KC-135 and KC-10) tankers, they’re not comparable specs and they’re not presented side-by side. I think the most pressing comparison is not between two tankers (KC-45A and KC-767) with very similar capabilities and purchase costs, but rather between two tankers (KC-45 and KC-135) with similar capabilities but totally different purchase costs - $100 billion versus $ZERO.

The most important thing journalists do is ask the right questions. Whether to spend $100 billion with Northrop/EADS or Boeing is a great question, especially for Seattle readers, but it’s not as good as whether to spend $100 billion at all.


Greg Williams
Seattle, WA


Beyond missing the basic question of whether we need $100 billion of new tankers, none of the articles I've seen so far seem to address any of a variety of reasonable questions to ask about any new tanker purchase. For example:

1. Since most missions are flown by fighter planes which can't accept fuel at the maximum flow rate offered by the new or old tankers, the effectiveness of tankers has way more to do with how many aircraft you can fuel at a time, rather than the maximum capacity or single fuel boom throughput.

2. The Air Force and the Navy keep their total in-flight refueling capacity seriously hobbled by continuing their insistence on two incompatible in-flight refueling technologies: Rigid booms for the Air Force and "hose and drogue" for the Navy.

3. The most typical reasons for replacing aging aircraft are generally easily-known and easily-stated: Fuel efficiency and overall cost per hour of flying time. Why didn't the reporters take a few minutes to articulate this and see if it was possible to get the savings to come anywhere near $100 billion?

I haven't read anything substantial about military tankers in nearly twenty years, and I've never made any kind of study of it. I hope someone more knowledgeable than I will chime-in here and in the new media. In the meantime, keep up the good work POGO.

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