Sunday, June 01, 2008

Retired military urge rigorous oversight of Airbus/EADS Tanker award

Written by George Landrith
Thursday, 29 May 2008
United States Congress
U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20002

May 28, 2008

Dear Senator or Representative:

We are writing to respectfully urge Congress to exercise rigorous oversight the Defense Department’s decision to award a $40 billion refueling tanker contract to the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS).

Our many concerns about the wisdom of this contract are based on grave questions about the mission capability, survivability, and excessive cost of the EADS aircraft. The Airbus 330 is able to land on only about half as many airfields as the American-made Boeing KC-767, is a bigger target with an excessively large footprint, and is unable to refuel the V-22 Osprey, along with other commercial and military aircraft. EADS has never manufactured a functioning boom or a fully operational tanker.

EADS has made claims about the capabilities, costs, and suitability of its Airbus platform that do not stand up to close scrutiny.

According to reports, the EADS tanker, based on the Airbus 330 jetliner, is significantly larger and weighs far more than the KC-767. While the EADS tanker can hold more fuel, it appears that its increased size and capacity offer few real-world benefits, and may actually make the Airbus platform less suited to the missions for which it will be deployed.

First, the larger, heavier Airbus 330 tanker is unable to land on as many airfields as the smaller, lighter Boeing 767. This is true owing to many factors, including weight restrictions on certain runways, and the inability of the larger Airbus jet to take off on bases with shorter runways.

Second, the Airbus 330’s significantly larger “footprint” (the area it takes up on the ground) means that fewer of them can be housed or staged for deployment at any given airfield at any given time. The larger footprint also means that the Airbus 330 would displace other aircraft, such as the fighter, cargo and reconnaissance planes that also require runway, ramp, and hangar space, and that are also necessary to complete war fighting missions. Additionally, if the Air Force has decided to accommodate the larger, heavier Airbus 330 on additional airbases, then the Air Force will need to upgrade existing airfields or build new ones at a cost estimated at between $12 and $47 billion. Were these considerations taken into account during the bidding process? Getting a bargain on a new vehicle is hardly a financial benefit if one is forced to build a new garage in which to park it.

Third, bigger size means bigger target. The EADS aircraft has inferior armor and radar systems to detect the enemy. The Air Force rated the Boeing aircraft as having five times the strengths in combat as the EADS aircraft. On the ground or in the air, having more, smaller tankers can be a better tactical approach than having fewer, larger tankers.

Fourth, the Airbus 330’s ability to hold more fuel does not necessarily translate into its being able to fuel more planes. Although the Boeing 767 tanker has a smaller overall fuel load, it has plenty of fuel to accommodate what history has demonstrated are real-world refueling conditions. The excess capacity of the Airbus plane may turn out to be just that – excess.

Fifth, the EADS boom – the airborne fuel line and nozzle that actually delivers the tanker’s fuel to awaiting aircraft – remains in development. EADS has never built a mission-ready midair refueling boom, while Boeing has built 2,000 tankers over seven decades and is now rolling out its fifth-generation operational boom. Boeing’s tanker is operational, and two have already been delivered to Japan. Australia’s order for the EADS tanker has yet to be filled with a tanker that actually works.

Finally, the Airbus taker is not able to fuel the new V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft which will be increasingly important in deploying U.S. troops. The Boeing tanker can. Is the Air Force relegating the V-22 only to short-range missions, and thereby telling our potential enemies that the V-22’s range -- and our ability to project power with it -- will be unnecessarily limited?

These credible and very troubling reports that the Airbus platform is overly large, is unable to operate on as many airfields, is unable to fuel the V-22, and is both incomplete and unproven compel us to urge your attention to these matters. We respectfully ask that you investigate the decision making process by which the Air Force awarded the tanker contract to EADS, and require the Air Force purchase a tanker that best fits the needs of America’s war fighters.


Rear Adm. Paul W. Rohrer (Ret.), McLean, Virginia
Allan E Hesters, LTC, U.S. Army (Ret.), Randleman, North Carolina
COL Richard H. Black (USA Ret.), Loudoun County, Virginia
Colin Hanna, U.S. Navy veteran, West Chester, Pennsylvania
Captain Brian Hennaman, West Point Class of ’95, Midlothian, Virginia
Ivory White, MSG-E8, Army retired, West Valley City, Utah
Lieutenant Jeb Wilkinson, U.S. Navy veteran, Woodbridge, Virginia
Sergeant Jim Martin, USMC veteran, Washington D.C.
David Castillo, U.S. Navy veteran, Seattle, Washington
Captain Ben Nelsen, Air Force (Ret.), Brighton, Colorado
James R Fagersten, LTC (Ret), Duck, North Carolina
LTC A.J. Scott, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Richard E. Edelman, LTC (Ret), Army Aviator, McLean, Virginia
Dr. Kent B. Davis, Captain US Air Force, Lehi, Utah
Colonel Jackie Jackson (USMC Ret.), Wildwood, Missouri
SGT Gary Wark, Army (Retired), Pleasanton, California
Retired Air Force J. White, Abeline Texas (Ret)
Don Robinson, Army, Salt Lake, Utah (Ret)
Ronald Haertel, Chief Master Sgt., Air Force (Retired), Farmington, Utah
Charles R Warren, Air Force, E-5, (Retired), Las Vegas, Nevada
William Pizza, Navy (Retired), Holladay, Utah
Edward McCormick, Captain, Marines, Former Pilot (Retired), Sonoma, California
Cpl Nelson M. Brown Army Veteran, Ogden, Utah
Don Smith, Army, Captain, Salt Lake, Utah (Ret)
Sam Abeldeez, Army, Salt Lake, Utah
Keith Newberry, Army, 1st Sgt., Charleston, South Carolina (Ret)

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