We at Tanker War Blog have been following Secretary Gates' recent scoldings of the Air Force. (Some TWB thinks are unwarranted) While reviewing the transcript of Gates' remarks earlier this week at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, we came across this interesting closing question from a French Air Force Office attending the Air War College:
Question: Good morning, sir. (Inaudible name) from Air War College, from France. Sir, you mentioned this morning in your speech how important interoperability and working in coalition was for the U.S. Air Force. About a couple of months ago, the U.S. government decided that the future tanker will be provided by a consortium led by Grumman and Airbus. Since then, Boeing decided to challenge this decision. I would like to know -- and it will delay the overall process for the Air Force to procure this kind of aircraft. I would like to know what you think about this challenge and how -- (audio break).
SEC. GATES: Well, Boeing is using the legitimate processes that have been established to protest the award of a contract. As I understand it, the General Accountability Office will -- is evaluating the decision process and Boeing's process and Boeing's protest, and they will issue a decision in terms of whether they believe the protest was warranted...
[Secretary Gates goes on to say he wants to move ahead with the purchase and he is concerned that things DoD can not by law consider are in the mix on Capitol Hill.]
So let's frame this properly: A French exchange officer gets the chance of a lifetime to ask the U.S. Secretary of Defense a question....and he wants to know if the Airbus tanker buy will be delayed? This is so cliche we are not sure anyone would believe us if not for the link to the DoD public affairs press release.
Also, this being an election year someone is sure to make the accusation that this was a planted question so DoD could repeat its tanker contract talking points.So yes intrepid flier of the Armee de l'Air the purchase will be delayed. In fact, we hope that when Americans start to get as interested in this EADS/Airbus tanker contract as those in France, it will be cancelled.