London: The long running saga of a $35 billion tender for a new refuelling tanker for the United States Air Force (USAF) has run into some fresh tensions with Boeing asking for an additional six months time to work on its proposal.
"We feel strongly this is a new competition. We need to propose a different aircraft . . . If we are unable to get sufficient time to prepare for this new proposal, there is a strong likelihood that we would no-bid," said Boeing. A pull-out by Boeing at this stage would be a blow to the procurement process, which is already running behind schedule, and delay delivery of the aircraft. Boeing had challenged, successfully, an earlier award of the contract to a Northrop/EADS combine.
The successful challenge compelled the Pentagon to ask for a re-submission of bids from both the competitors. It was also now expecting to provide a 45-60 day deadline for the submission of proposals, which schedule is now in jeopardy with Boeing saying it would ask for an additional four months.
Boeing spokesman Dan Beck confirmed the company's protest, saying: "We have asked the Pentagon to allow a six-month timetable for submission of proposals. If we don't get sufficient time to prepare that proposal, there's little option for us other than not to bid in this competition."
Beck said the four additional months are needed to do further price analysis and engineering work to propose a different plane.
Boeing officials have been saying for quite some time now that the revised requirements issued by the air force appear to favour a bigger aircraft that can carry more fuel, such as that proposed by the rival combine Northrop/EADS.
Though the company stressed the move was not a delaying tactic, industry sources feel that Boeing would stand a better chance with the bid should the Democrats win the US election in November.
Boeing, which is competing against a team of Northrop Grumman and EADS, the European defence company, had originally proposed an aircraft based on a modified 767-200. The USAF favoured a larger aircraft capable of delivering larger loads of fuel and range of operations, such as the modified Airbus A330 on offer from the Northrop/EADS combine.