Size Really Does Matter

The Air Force never told Boeing it wanted a bigger airplane in the tanker contest, according to company officials. Had it done so, Boeing might have offered a larger aircraft or made other revisions to its tanker bid, Boeing tanker VP Mark McGraw said in a teleconference with news media Tuesday. McGraw said that typical competitions call for “threshold … and objective” performance on various parameters, meaning minimum and desired performance, respectively. However, points are usually not scored for exceeding the “objective” requirements, to discourage contractors from offering “gold-plated” systems that are more than the government needs. McGraw said the Air Force never informed Boeing that being able to move passengers and cargo far beyond the capabilities of the KC-135 was a critical consideration, only that the designs had to “do it,” without any metric. He said USAF didn’t tell Boeing that the KC-30 would get “extra credit” for far exceeding the baseline performance and believed it would be counterproductive to do so, since a bigger airplane consumes more gas and requires more military infrastructure and maintenance. McGraw said there was good reason that everyone was surprised by the outcome of the competition.