Operational Aircraft

Time to Face the Truth: F-35 = F-117B (Long read)

Nearly nine years ago I wrote about a suggestion from Boeing that the USAF buy F-18 E/F Super Hornets instead of the F-35. Their suggestion was so obviously a great idea that it almost felt tongue in cheek...but they weren't joking. Our coverage of this discussion must have struck a nerve because more people read it than any other post for a long time.

Surprise, Surprise: Boeing Wins Tanker Contract This Time

Boeing has started proudly announcing their victory in the latest iteration of the USAF's air refueling tanker competition. An analyst named Richard Aboulafia from the Teal Group said the decision was a big surprise. I'm not sure how he thought the competition would go after Boeing successfully contested the last decision, but I didn't expect our politicians to allow any other outcome.

Though I'm not proud of the course the competition has run, I am glad to see that this decision was reached somewhat quickly and that the KC-135 can finally look forward to a firm retirement date.

Civilian MiG-29 Flies at Quincy

Bird Ball?

The perspective on this shot makes it look like the birds are surrounding the plane, but if you look at the shadows you can see they're safely off to the side. Still probably too close for comfort!

Enter Antonov: America's Tanker Competition Gets Weird

When the US Air Force awarded the contract for a KC-135 air refueling tanker replacement to European company EADS, American aircraft manufacturer Boeing went crazy. They brought out the lawyers and argued that although the EADS Airbus A330 tanker had out performed the Boeing's B767, the competition was unfair and should be re-accomplished. Boeing wants the criteria for the new tanker adjusted to favor their products. Although I'm not sure they ever said it directly, a large part of their argument seems to be that it's not fair to have a European company providing aircraft on a multi-billion dollar US military contract. EADS, of course, is arguing that they still have the better product and that the US military should select the product that will do the best job of taking care of our troops...no matter where it comes from. I think the argument is pretty stupid and that we're wasting literally years delaying the A330 tanker; however, Boeing got what it wanted and the competition is open again.

I bet they never expected a third company to throw them for a loop though. Ukrainian (formerly Soviet) aircraft manufacturer Antonov has entered the competition with the help of a US partner, US Aerospace. Antonov is submitting proposals for 3 different aircraft, and they may be able to out-perform both competitors. I wonder how Boeing is feeling now about the can of worms they've opened.

New Twists as Tanker Drama Continues

I've been following the competition for the new USAF tanker for quite a while. I was excited when the Northrop/EADS A330 won. A friend of mine who has multiple combat tours in the KC-135 and got to provide input to the tanker decision said the A330 is a superior aircraft. I live right down the road from Mobile, AL, where residents were ecstatic about a new airplane factory and thousands of associated (American) jobs coming to town. I was quite pleased that the Air Force made an effort to be fair and open with the competition following a shady tanker lease deal that got some people in trouble in 2004.

Then, after the A330 was officially named the winner and ground was already broken on the new factory in Mobile, Boeing complained and got the decision overturned and the competition reopened. I was very disappointed. Reopening the competition guaranteed several more years of waiting for a new tanker while the ancient KC-135s continued to serve past their lifetime. It also showed severe prejudice against a foreign product, even if it meant a superior to our warfighters.

The Pentagon released their new request for proposals recently. Sadly, the new specifications so obviously favor Boeing's 767 that Northrop and EADS have decided not to even enter the competition.

SU-27s...the Ultimate "I'll Take Two"

Every pilot ends up dreaming about flying faster, more capable aircraft. For the last half-century or so this dreaming almost invariably led pilots to warbirds, ex-military aircraft put into private service. Right now WWII era planes like the P-51 Mustang are all the rage; however, jet aircraft are becoming increasingly available. Though few of us will ever be able to afford our own jet, it's fun to dream about. The EAA's Warbirds division just published an article about the ultimate warbird offering, exclusively from warbird supplier Pride Aircraft. Their product? A pair of SU-27 Flankers!

No On Tankers, Yes On Helos...Can We Make Up Our Minds?

EADS North America recently announced delivery of the first of five H-72A helicopters to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. They'll be used for test pilot training by the Navy. Normally, I wouldn't bat an eyelash at news of a new aircraft delivery other than to say I'm glad the military is working to keep it's fleet up to date. However, the H-72A is a commercial off the shelf ("COTS") military program based on the Eurocopter EC-145...a subsidiary of EADS.

In case you haven't heard, the USAF is currently delaying the replacement of the ancient KC-135 tanker because the new contract was awarded to EADS and people all over the US threw a fit about a foreign aircraft getting a US military contract. People complained so much that even though the EADS Airbus 330 won the competition, the contract has been revoked and the process is being started all over again.

So, on one hand EADS is an evil empire unfit for producing a US military aircraft (the tanker,) but on the other they are the quality supplier of a US military aircraft (the helicopter) to an elite US Navy flying unit. Confused? Me too. Don't worry it gets better.

Syndicate content