Monday, April 28, 2008

Northrop Grumman KC-45: Why We Won - Versatility

Northrop Grumman KC-45: Why We Won - Versatility

Highlighting Reasons the U.S. Air Force Selected the KC-45 Tanker as Best for Our Men and Women in Uniform

WASHINGTON - April 23, 2008 - The U.S. Air Force found Northrop Grumman's (NYSE:NOC) bid to build the next generation of aerial refueling tankers superior to Boeing's in four of the five most important selection criteria. Despite this fact, the losing bidder wants the Government Accountability Office to overturn the Air Force decision to award the contract to Northrop Grumman even though the Air Force conducted what even Boeing described as a fair, open and transparent bidding process. Here is another reason Northrop Grumman won, drawn from a list of facts included in the Mission Capability section of a redacted version of a protected Air Force selection document.


The Air Force found Northrop Grumman provides tremendous versatility in its aircraft, including "Better airlift efficiency, cargo capability, pallet capability, passengers and aero-medical capability." Although refueling is the primary mission, the KC-45's excellent mobility capability will provide future commanders with increased operational flexibility.

The Air Force concluded that Northrop Grumman's plane was superior because it could transport more cargo pallets, carry more people and evacuate more wounded soldiers than Boeing's, depending on which of these critical missions the Air Force would need to accomplish at any given time.

In choosing Northrop Grumman, the Air Force was being entirely consistent in what it told both bidders it was looking for all along. When its Request For Proposal (RFP) was finalized in Jan. 2007, the Air Force made clear it expected its new tanker to be versatile, noting that its evaluation would include "Airlift efficiency, cargo, passengers, aero-medical evacuation, ground turn time, and cargo bay reconfiguration," adding that greater flexibility and efficiency than the previous aircraft "Will be viewed as advantageous to the government."

These desires were also documented in a public white paper the Air Force produced a month later entitled "The Need For A Flexible Tanker," in which the Air Force wrote that it was looking for "A flexible aerial refueling aircraft that can operate throughout a battlespace to deliver fuel and/or cargo and/or passengers."

That same paper quoted Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, as saying he was seeking flexibility. "I am looking for versatility; single-mission airplanes don't give that," said Schwartz, who later also said he wanted the new tanker to "Have a dual-role use" and be a "Game-changer over time."

Sue Payton, the Air Force's chief acquisitions officer, summarized the superiority of Northrop Grumman's plane this way in the document she provided to the bidders in which she explained her decision: "In my judgment, Northrop Grumman's...aircraft offers significant advantage in the important areas of aerial refueling and airlift and represents superior value to the government."

The results are clear: Men and women of the Air Force who have a solemn responsibility to protect those fighting to defend freedom at home and abroad, as well as provide taxpayers the best possible value, concluded that Northrop Grumman's plane passed these two crucial tests with flying colors.

As the New York Times put it in a recent editorial, opponents of the Air Force's selection "Would rather have the Air Force buy a more expensive plane, and one that...doesn't meet its needs nearly as well."

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