Friday, September 12, 2008

KC-X Program: Orphan child of Air Force's everywhere

Can anyone remind me whom the last Leader of any Air Force, anywhere in the world - was a former aerial refueling tanker pilot or transport aircraft pilot ?

The roles played by these aircraft types are essential in terms of air power projection and even more so in the joint operations environment. However, dating back to the Second World War it was the glamorous fighter pilots - modern day jousting knights - who have captured the popular imagination and have a stranglehold on senior positions.

Put this now in the context of the on-off KC-X tanker program for the US Air Force. The Air Force likely favoured more F-22 aircraft first, JSF second, B-2 third, "fun-stuff" fourth.

So when some wag in the defence industry offered the USAF the option of leasing air tankers through financing techniques used overseas (esp. in the United Kingdom as the PFI-PPP programs (Private Finance Initiative - Public Private Partnership)) - why would the USAF not conserve its budget.

Of course, we then get into the need to prove 'value for money' via competition and guess what - the national champion came second to another US defence company working with a European partner.

Given the corruption charges involved with the former you could have said that they had lost hands down, but do not forget the vagiaries of electoral politics.

A personal view on where the program goes now is that in around 9 months the next Secretary of State for Defense and President will have the pleasure to announce a mixed purchased from Boeing primarily, with a smaller secondary purchase of EADS (read: Airbus) tankers.

More importantly, the USAF will receive more funding for 'core' projects to offset the inconvenience of purchasing aircraft which will never be flown by future leaders of the Air Force...

Technorati Tags:
, , , ,

No comments: