If you haven't already read about it, the Air Force has been trying for seven years to replace its existing KC-135 aerial refueling tankers. The KC-135s have been in service since 1957, and are simply too old.
Since 2005, two groups have been competing for the contract to replace these tankers. The first group is, naturally, Boeing. The second group is a combined effort of two companies: Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defense System company (EADS).
The tanker desinged by Northrop and EADS was $3 billion dollars less expensive than the tanker built by Boeing. The Northrop and EADS tanker was also larger and could carry more fuel, and could even be produced faster than the Boeing Tanker.
On top of all of this, the tanker designed and built by Boeing has had mechanical problems in the past. last year, the Boeing tanker's refueling boom (the part that connects the tanker to the airplane being refueled) would not retract. This forced the pilot to make an emergency landing. When the plane landed, the boom struck the ground and caught on fire.
So, not only is the Boeing plane more expensive and less efficient, it has also had serious mechanical problems that could endanger the lives of our service men and women.
That's why, in December of 2008, the Air Force awarded the contract to Northrop and EADS. But Boeing claimed that the process was unfair, and they now using their political connections to force a new competition for the contract.
This isn't the first time Boeing has used shady tactics to get what they want. In 2003, Boeing bribed an Air Force acquisition officer in order to sweeten a contract. Boeing has also used its connections to get an unfair advantage in the new competition. Boeing has been allowed to see pricing on Northrop and EADS' bid, while they have not been allowed to see the same data on Boeing's bid.
Currently, the Pentagon is drawing up the guidelines for the new tanker competition. Already, Boeing has used it's connections on capitol hill to influence the process. That is why I am hoping that everyone who reads this will call Congressmen G.K. Butterfield and Melvin Watt and ask them to demand a fair bidding process.
There is too much at stake in this. We cannot let this contract go to Boeing when the Boeing tanker is clearly inferior to the Northrop and EADS tanker. Especially since the Boeing tanker has a history of mechanical problems that could get people hurt!
Boeing is doing such a bang up job delivering its super-dooper Dreamliner on time.
I have a geeky fondness for Grumman trucks and for Grumman canoes which I have paddled and ported.