Let’s Talk Tanker

The Draft Request for Proposal document for the KC-X Tanker competition from the U.S. Air Force is out, as you probably know. And everyone’s kicking into gear, both insiders and the community. So let’s talk about why it matters.

Originally, one of the benefits for the community banding together to play a major role in landing the tanker contract was to show Boeing that the Puget Sound cares about the company enough to make it worthwhile for them to locate the second line of the 787 here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really look like the timing is going to work out, since there might be a 787 decision this fall and no tanker decision until next year.

To me, one of the real exciting things about fighting to build the tanker here (besides all the jobs and economic impact, of course) is that it would give our region a growing presence for Boeing’s IDS (integrated defense systems) side of things. Whether we build the second line of the 787 here or not, becoming a large trained workforce for both commercial airplane and defense manufacturing can only benefit us in terms of getting the company (and other companies) to do more work here. Especially since the new BCA president came from the defense side of the company.

Now, if this were a political blog, I’d break down all the dynamics of what might sway this decision outside an objective framework. It hasn’t been the best of times between the Administration and the political leaders of South Carolina recently, for example. But who knows how much that comes into play. There are also all sorts of interesting analyses about how the way the new RFP is written affects the chances for one or the other, but this isn’t an engineering blog either.

This is an economic development blog, so we look at jobs and dollar signs. And all I know is that an order for “179 aircraft worth about $35 billion, and the potential for orders later worth up to $100 billion” is a couple of jobs and some economic impact that we can all get behind.


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