Tankers in the Sky

Along with Adobe‘s office, there are several other important companies based in Seattle, one of them being Boeing. Not only the biggest manufacturer of civil airplanes (by number), but after acquiring many "smaller" manufacturers (if you can attribute producing 100+ million USD jets and helicopters as something small at all), also the largest producer of military flying gear, including the venerable KC-135 aerial tanker. Now even the "our airplanes burn 100 litres of kerosene per minute, but what do we care for the environment" military types are not that stupid and realized, that their smoketrailers would eventually fall out of the sky of being over-used for 40 years. Yepp, tankers are in high demand, but there are not enough of them and from Army and Navy to foreign NATO forces everybody relies on the US tanker fleet, making the need for replacements even more urgent.

That being so, the process of requesting bids for replacement hardware started about 10 years ago already and was finally won by a consortium made up of European EADS and Northrop Grumman, another not so small defense industry shop. Now one would think that’s all good and well and even Americans would be happy, that the one with the better tech and the lower prices has won, but no, all that of course doesn’t matter when it’s the military throwing out tax payers’ money. So someone made a stink in the name of Boeing and everything came to a grinding halt. And what happened? What only could happen: There is still a fleet of over-aged birds flying around, whose maintenance costs more than buying a bunch of new ones. Luckily, it seems someone has come to their senses and now the issue is even being pressed within the highest authorities before something serious happens (you know, one of those fuel barrels falling onto your home due to material fatigue or something like that).

The solution being forced involves both manufacturers, which gives room for some interesting speculations/ observations.

  • Due to the massive delays on all ends, the need has now grown so considerably, that it wouldn’t be possible for just one company to replace all ailing equipment in time.
  • Constant warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq and a few other places has eaten up what hours the old machines still had left on their dials.
  • The actual requirement may in fact be a lot hire than the numbers planned originally.
  • Now throw that all together, and what do you get? Exactly! It is going to cost twice as much than it would have 10 years ago. But then, isn’t that always true with military spending? The only consolation is, that on the other hand projects, that make much less sense like the F-22 Raptor, have been trimmed down.

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