Boeing and the Air Force need to take a step back and think about the ramifications of their current “angry confrontation” over the KC-X tanker award to Northrop Grumman, says Loren Thompson, CEO of the Lexington Institute. “Boeing and the Air Force need to catch their breath, tone down their rhetoric, and realize that they both still need each other to succeed,” he writes in an April 29 issue brief. While Boeing is convinced it should have won the $35 billion KC-X tanker contest and is pressing ahead aggressively with its legal protest of USAF’s decision, Air Force leaders believe that the company is willfully misstating facts “to obscure the inferior performance of the plane it proposed,” Thompson contends. Further, they are insulted by the tone of the company’s rhetoric in its public statements about its protest, he states. The situation may be reaching new lows, permeating the dealings of the two entities in non-tanker-related issues, he warns. “For instance, the service has probably delayed announcing award of the GPS III satellite contract in part because it fears another Boeing protest,” he writes. That said, Thompson notes that Air Force officials appear confident that none of the issues raised in Boeing’s protest will be sufficient to sway the Government Accountability Office into sustaining the company’s protest, Thompson says. Meanwhile Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said April 28 his company would take its war of words down a notch, reported Bloomberg News April 29 (via the Seattle Times.) “We’re going to avoid any needless sharp elbows, but I reassert our right to protest,” he told reporters after Boeing’s annual shareholders meeting in Chicago, according to the report. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Duncan McNabb met with McNerney and Northrop Grumman CEO Ronald Sugar April 18 to get them to tone down the vitriolic nature of the current dispute.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.