Europeans making big push for the USAF tanker project

EADS envisions 1,000 U.S. jobs with tanker deal

The dead Boeing KC-767 Tanker program, a favorite subject on MO and most recently noted here, has brought the vultures a-circling. The biggest player, EADS, notes the fact that Americans don’t really like seeing jobs going overseas.

European Aeronautic, Defense & Space Co. said yesterday it would spend $600 million to build an assembly plant and hire 1,000 workers in the United States if it got a contract to make aerial-refueling tankers.

“In order to be accepted as a competitor, we will have to comply with the rules of having large U.S. content in the tanker,” EADS Chief Executive Philippe Camus said in an interview in New York. “The U.S. tanker we will supply will have more than 50 percent U.S. content.”

I noted in July that EADS was nosing around the dying KC-767, looking for a chance to get a foot in the door. Now that the Boeing lease-buy-ripoff program is an ex-parrot, someone needs to get into position to build new tankers. Although I suspect that the existing fleet isn’t nearly as far gone as KC-767 proponents would have us beleive, there’s no doubt that the planes are very old and that they are getting quite a workout. I don’t see the load letting up any time soon, so someone had better get the ball moving.

As noted recenty, Boeing still hopes to resurrect the KC-767 program under a new purchase plan. They probably are the best bet besides EADS. The EADS tanker, based upon the Airbus A330, beat out the KC-767 in Britain and Australia recently.

In the July MO post I linked to, the EADS Co-CEO pointed out that the Airbus A380 would have 50% US content if fitted with GE engines as proposed, versus only 35% US content in the Boeing 7E7, the main rival to the A380. I’d be curious to see how much US content would go into the KC-767.


  1. Well, EADS has gone ahead and partnered up with Northrop Grumman at last on the KC-30 project. The truth is, the KC-135s are in pretty good shape. The biggest issue is maintenance on their old engines, but with re-engining they can fly for more than another decade. The KC-767 deal was mainly seen as a sop in the wake of the airline industry disaster that followed 9/11. Best suggestion I’ve seen for this competition… NEITHER. Configure C-17s for use as tankers, and design a system that would allow them to be converted from tankers to transport. Now you’ve beefed up power projection across the board, made provisions for a set of aircraft that really are wearing out early (C-17s are getting huge hours put on them), and kept a far more vital production line running. And at about $180M per, it’s pretty close to a major airliner.