Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Commentary: New York Times editorial 'The Tanker'

Commentary: New York Times editorial 'The Tanker'
June 8, 2010

New York Times editorial 'The Tanker' was Published on June 6, 2010. Reflecting on the Congressional move to block bidders deemed to have received subsidies.

The conflict between Boeing of the US and Airbus of Europe is a decades long battle for commercial domination of the civil and military high-tech engineering market world-wide.

On the one hand Boeing benefitted from the Second World War and non-competitive Cold War arms spending of the Pentagon, on the other European governments wishing to develop their own champion in the sphere backed Airbus who had to compete for orders against established competition in the civil aerospace arena.

The game-changing issue is that Airbus is expanding into the military segments - providing a nascent challenge to the US Air-to-air refuelling programme and short range cargo airlift (challenging maybe one day the dominance of the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules transport).

The story thus far has been of thrust and counter-thrust and is unlikely to change.

Surely competition is healthy and that both airframes provide unique capabilities - why would the US Air Force not wish to avail themselves of both ? Alternatively, why not risk giving the capability to an overseas company ? After all an air tanker is cylinder which flies and carries fuel, technical yes, however compared to the half-billion dollars a copy B-2 Stealth Bomber or F-22 Raptor combat jet relatively low-tech affairs.

In a supreme emergency the US could not commandeer civil assets or access those of trusted partners such as Britain and Europe ?

At the bidding level the program was Boeing's to lose, and they did. Enter round 2 with a new Presidency and Boeing will likely win a part of the program or else get given a juicier program as 'compensation' - better the Europeans build aerial refuelling aircraft than stealth bombers, no ?

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