Boeing has announced a newly designed KC-767 as its proposed aircraft for a $40 billion US Air Force supply bid to replace 179 refuelling planes. Boeing is competing against rival defence contractor Northrop Grumman Corp., which is expected to offer its KC-30, a modified Airbus A330, at a discounted price.
Boeing said at a press conference that it had tweaked the design of its long-range 767 freighter plane to improve fuel efficiency and allow it to take off and land on shorter runways, giving it greater flexibility in combat situations.
At stake for both competitors is a multi-year contract to replace a portion of the military's older fleet of KC-135 aircraft, a medium-sized refuelling plane made by Boeing. The $40 billion contract is the first instalment of an expected three-phase deal that calls for more than 500 planes and could be worth an estimated $100 billion.
The Boeing-led consortium for the USAAF contract includes Smiths Aerospace, a unit of Smiths Group, Rockwell Collins Inc., Vought Aircraft Industries Inc., Honeywell Inc. and Spirit AeroSystems Inc.
Boeing's 767, with a list price of $120 million appears more affordable than Northrop's, which has a partnership with European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., Boeing rival Airbus' parent company is expected to offer a heavy discount on its KC-30 from the roughly $160 million that the A330 is priced at.
The Los Angeles-based Northrop has been viewed as the underdog in the competition with a heavier, less fuel-efficient aircraft, as the Airbus tanker has a maximum fuel capacity of 200,000 pounds.