The Air Force says Northrop-Grumman’s proposal for a new aerial refueling aircraft based on the Airbus A330 was simply better than Boeing’s 767-based plan. Documents quoted by the Seattle Post Intelligencer say the Air Force will need 22 fewer Airbuses because it’s more efficient at refueling and has a faster turnaround time than the 767. The Boeing had the edge in communications, some aerial refueling capabilities and combat survivability. It all added up to a close competition that the Air Force suggests may have been tipped by the business skills of the two bidders.
How can a “close competition” between an American company and a European consortium go to the Europeans? Even if there is an advantage to choosing the non-American plane, wouldn’t it have to be an overwhelming one to send the profits and industrial capacity advantages to France?
If the French had helped us in Iraq, supported us diplomatically before we invaded and militarily after the fact, there would be a coherent reason for not opposing the award if the Airbus had been a clearly superior tanker.But to make the award of essentially a tie after years of French obstructionism and even perfidy, is astonishing. (I am not sure I should call it a tie, though the experts are, given Boeing’s edge in aeriel refueling capabilities and especially “combat survivability.”)
The Congressional GOP should not let this issue become a partisan one, and should especially refuse to let it become a hammer in the hands of anti-free trade, protectionist circle. It is not an issue of free trade, but of national security.
Start with this question: Are European business leaders more or less likely to push their governments to support the U.S. after this award, which amounts to a giant “kick me” sign pasted on the U.S.’s backside?