Military snubs American plane maker

The Air Force announced today that it has chosen Northrup Grumman, which is partnering with European airplane manufacturer Airbus — rather than Boeing — for its new fleet of mid-air refueling planes.

We’re heading into an economic recession — oh I’m sorry, I mean slowdown — our ballooning national debt is being financed predominantly by Chinese banks, and now the Air Force is going to be sending billions of our tax dollars to Airbus.  I’m all for international trade and cooperation, but there’d better be some significant advantages to the Grumman/Airbus offering over the Boeing offering to justify this.

32 Responses to “Military snubs American plane maker”

  1. TSKelso says:

    Just to be clear, Northrop Grumman Corp is a decidedly U.S. company which built the B-2 bomber, the Apollo lunar lander, lots of airplanes that helped us win WWII, and many military aircraft since.

  2. David K. says:

    and Airbus is a very european company who’s plane design will be the basis for the project, whereas Boeing is a very American company completely.

  3. David K. says:

    “The Northrop-EADS bid was a bold one that mixed business and Washington lobbying with trans-Atlantic politics. EADS lined up a politically powerful group of senators from Alabama and Mississippi with promises that much of the tanker would be built in their states.

    In Paris, at the annual air shows, Airbus officials and Southern politicians proudly displayed the proposed European tanker offering and made the argument that if the United States wants to sell its weapons to European countries, it should also open its doors to foreign suppliers. Politicking reached the highest levels – even Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany brought up the tanker bid in a White House meeting with President Bush. ”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/01/business/01tanker.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&hp

  4. Andrew says:

    This loss definitely stings, but there are too many details we don’t know yet. The Boeing proposal team and executives apparently are due to be briefed on 3/12, so hopefully more information will emerge between now and then. Depending on which hat I put on, I can think of a number of reasons for and against the Northrop-EADS team winning this contract. What bothers me is that the USAF kept referring to the winning team as “Northrop”, but the reality is Northrop plays a very small (shall we say, token?) role in the enterprise; the vast majority of the dollars go to EADS, and the planes themselves will be built in France.

  5. Anonymous Hoosier says:

    Well, David, since Boeing had to illegally bribe the Bush administration on their way to winning this contract initially (back in 2001), I think there’s probably a good reason to assume that their offering is inferior!

  6. JBurbee says:

    Interesting post. Bear in mind that

    one of the announced reasons for the choice

    is that the Northrup plane, while being more expensive, has a greater load capacity, which is difficult to argue with.

    As for Boeing being an American manu-

    facturer, one of the prime reasons for the

    repeated delays of the 787 Dreamliner has been the difficulty of integrating all of

    the foreign-sourced components. A great

    deal of the plane has been off-shored, and

    what I’ve read in the business magazines so

    far does not make me entirely comfortable

    with the long-term service life of the plane.

  7. David K. says:

    Hoosier, whatever went on during the previous contract is irrelevant to the current one since the officials in charge are no longer with the company. I also think you should look up the previous events before commenting on them. Your logic is ridiculous.

  8. David K. says:

    JBurbee, there is a difference between an American company using foreign parts for commercial planes, and the U.S. government choosing a foreign manufacturer rather than an American one. Especially when we are talking about two separate aircraft.

  9. David K. says:

    Andrew, I agree that there is more to learn which is why i made the comment about advantages and I’m interested in the reports that there were last minute changes made to the standards used for the proposals.

  10. Ron B says:

    NAFTA and the buying of Americas manufacturing complex is well and doing fine under the republican administration. Another casualty is Boeing which lost its bid to sell 767 tankers to the air force after years of delays. The decision had to come from the top after all the Boeing 767 Tankers were going to cost 35 million dollars less per plane than the Airbus A330. This was another European give away to buy what little support they can get from the ungrateful Europeans and especially the French for the current administrations failed Iraq policy. In this case Bush has given another manufacturing business away to the ones who despise us the most, the French. Northrop Grumman by complaining all these years has finally won a piece of the pie with there European teammates but most of the jobs and money will end up overseas. Once again this is another case of the current republican administration continuing sending jobs overseas.

  11. Alexis says:

    As a former airline captain and vice chairman, I can relate that in my view, this decision choosing Airbus over Boeing is a very poor one. To be blunt…Airbus aircraft are designed with built-in obsolesence due to their higher dependence upon electronics, computers and avionics which age and degrade over time. Without a reliable supply of line replaceable units, an Airbus becomes totally unflyable due to its computer dependent flight control system. What about EMP survivability? After all, these aircraft will need to remain in service for many decades, so I question the wisdom choosing Lockheed/EADS. Boeing has its own share of problems to be fair, however, I would still choose Boeing over Airbus for many reasons both technical and political. I don’t think this is a good decision for the long-term capabilities of the American military. It is a decision we may very well regret.

  12. Bill Lucier says:

    Hmmm… Military Intelligence strikes again?

    Our domestic economy is in such distress that we have to bail out the unemployed and families unable to renew their mortgages by borrowing from our children. Our equity markets have suffered 4 consecutive monthly declines. Our balance of international trade is perpetually underwater. Now we award this $40B program to Europe… who has snubbed us in the war on terror, routinely fines our companies billions of dollars (i.e. Microsoft), and subsidizes the very company competing in this award.

    When do we fund a Chunnel across the Atlantic to ease the flow of our lowly dollar to the European continent?

    What message have we delivered (and will we deliver in defending this decision) to global customers of commercial aircraft?… and to to those employed in the domestic aerospace industry whose tax dollars will be shipped to Europe?

    Attaboy USAF!

  13. Darkhelmet says:

    This is real strange, Boeing bid 35 million less per airplane, which is a cost savings. The American’s hurt in this is Boeing and all the American Suppliers. Us tax payer’s will all be unemployed, while trying to pay for Airbus Airplanes. Airbus gives airplanes away because they don’t have to show a profit.

  14. Mad Max, Esquire says:

    I agree that the military should support U.S. industry. That said, Boeing hasn’t done itself any favors in recent years. As someone mentioned previously, they had the whole issue with the tanker leases. Then there was the comically bad bid the company put together for the joint fighter a few years back. Now they have a multi-billion dollar virtual fence on the border that doesn’t appear to work at all.

  15. Mike says:

    Incredibly vile decision. Insulting, unamerican, stupid.

  16. Mad Max, Esquire says:

    When running for President, Howard Dean complained about this kind of thing, saying that U.S. policy should focus on using U.S. suppliers for our military needs. He specifically discussed a scenario, which could happen here given France’s history, that a country supplying military hardware could refuse to deliver it should they disagree with the actions of the U.S. military.

    Of course, we all know the Republicans care more about national security than do the Democrats, now don’t we ; ). That’s why under the Bush Administration we now get our bullets from Canada and Israel, our uniforms from China and our planes from France. That should work great if we ever need to mobilize U.S. industry like we did during WWII. At least our soldiers will have plenty of lattes and scones.

  17. Refueling tanker, though it is designed in France, will be built at a plant

    located @ Brookley Field in Mobile, Alabama,

    which is, of course, in the U.S.A., and will use American workers.

  18. BK says:

    Dean added, “Byaaahhhhhh!!!!”

    :)

  19. John says:

    Maybe the Pentagon is tired of the labor unions in US manufactures that always seem to complain about everything little thing they do. For example, and this happens all the time in both aircraft and automotive manufacturing; if engineers decide to make an assembly line more efficient; the labor union blocks them. “We need our breaks, that’s not my job, I want a pay raise” to name a few. I’ve seen labor unions file a grievance because military members ended up doing their jobs because the military guys felt they were going to slow. (Which they were; the military guys accomplished a specific task in 3 days which the civilian union guys were going to get paid for to do in 2 weeks). Because the military guys were efficient and showed them up…they filed a grievance because they took a job away from them. I simply blame our social work ethic in this country—there is none! People simply DO NOT want to work. They want everything handed to them on a platter….or deposited into their accounts. If plants had to be converted to build war equipment like in WWII- today’s workers wouldn’t do it. They would complain and selfishly deny the existence of any collaborative effort to be a nation.

    Yes..it pisses me off that the AF chose Northrop. As a tax payer, I feel that this should be illegal for our military to “outsource”. I think as workers, perhaps we should take a look at ourselves and ask what we as individuals can do different to make American jobs more attractive to potential contracts.

  20. Aaron says:

    If I understand correctly, the Airbus plane is more modern and more capable, and this seems like yet another example of the Air Force valuing capability over all other considerations. This is a big mistake, in my view. Reliability, longevity, suitability to likely tasks, cost to the taxpayer… all these virtues take a back seat. And now, apparently, so does keeping the construction jobs in the U.S. Maybe this is another reason to Abolish the Air Force

  21. David K. says:

    Margaret, parts for the plane will be built at that plant, but the plane itself will be built in France and the money will go to Airbus.

  22. Joe Loy says:

    Right, David K, and what’s worse is, the Engines will not be built in Connecticut :|. Maybe this is another reason to Abolish France :}. [If not Alabama ;]

  23. Marty West says:

    Maybe it’s because the Osprey sucked so much dick and the military invested hundreds of millions in a piece of shit.

  24. Jim says:

    Since AirBus (even for planes destined for European markets) is outsourcing to the U.S. because their currency goes much further here, and since Boeing (as has been mentioned above) is outsourcing elsewhere…

    Who cares?

    The idea that this is some give away to placate France is ridiculous. It’s very relevant what happened in the previous bidding cycle. How could it not be?

    The AirBus offering was seen as superior. I haven’t seen any indication to the contrary. The military should be buying superior hardware. It’s called competition, it’s a good thing.

  25. Darkhelmet says:

    I have been practicing all weekend for my new job in food service, “Would You Like Fries with that”? We have seen the continuous lose of manufacturing products in the US. The auto maker’s are next, our government will no longer purchase US cars. 300 years ago we had the revolution, it was because England would not sell us machines to build textile, we could only buy finished products. The only thing sustaining our exports today is Boeing Airplanes. We have shipped all our technology already to be built somewhere else. Maybe I will become a professional Brain Surgeon, does it pay ?

  26. Sean says:

    I dread the day when these types of deals and policies cause half of the American workforce to be out of work. Then the government will start or extend programs for us to bail more of our own people out. We invest in foriegn counties too heavily as individuals and as a nation. Where does it end?

    40 Billions dollars spent. How much of that will come back to use in the form of taxes?

  27. These USAF Generals filled their Swiss bank Accounts says:

    My dad spent 26 years in the USAF. My daughter, two of her friends, and a nephew were going to make the USAF a career and join this summer. But, after the unprofessional decision yesterday by the USAF to buy foreign aircraft, I and the other parents have contacted our recruiter to cease all contact with us. Many of us are shocked and outraged at this decision. Where is the “buy American only ” clause in our contracts? There”s no factory yet nor a technical base in Alabama. The trival amount of money that will stay in the US is nothing compared to what”s going to fill the pockets of those foreign executives. I ask everyone reading this comment to write their Representatives in Washington to complain about this. Boycot the USAF recruiting stations, prevent USAF recruiters from visiting our high schools and colleges, and request that the names of your children be removed from the high school lists that are provided free from our school districts to the recruiters. Also, write your Representatives to reduce the USAF”s portion of the defense budget. This decision is as STUPID as when the USAF bought blue camouflage tiger stripe uniforms for their personnel going to Iraq. This is a sad day for America when we allow the USAF to sell our country out to a foreign company. I wonder how much money the Secretary of the USAF and his generals made from this decision? I wonder how many of the generals involved in this decision have already coordinated a job with EADS after they retire!

  28. BA says:

    Come on people, pull your head out of your collective butt!!! My guess is all those in favor of this BS were the same morons that were for the “war” in Iraq!! Where is your patriotism now? This is a direct kick to the nuts for each and every person in this country. Do any of you understand how much additional work is created by adding a different manufacturer to the list of procured items by the Airforce. They will now have to hire a butt load of people to learn how to maintain these “different” aircraft.

    I noticed that one of the blogs says something like we should expect this because of the labor unions desire to push for increased wages, healthcare and miscellaneous benefits. Yup we are spoiled Americans all right. Just compare our work week to the French and German. Let’s compare wages and while were at it check out the amount of vacation time the average American recieves in relation to the average European!! GET REAL…we seriously lag behind all these countries in all those benefits and yet we still produce the most amount of product per person.

    Wake up and smell the coffee people we have been sold down the river once again. If you disagree with these thoughts I suggest you spend some time working for Boeing so that you can measure your standard of living against the German and French. And if you don’t like that idea then you can go sign up for the military and and play GI Joe in the desert of Iraq for all I care. You just better hope that the new Airbus tanker was able to fuel your supply chain in atme to keep you alive ’cause your going to be there a long damn time!!!

  29. Alasdair says:

    So far, apart from here, what I can find says that the planes will be built in Mobile, bringing literally thousands of jobs to the Mobile area …

    “Mobile, Alabama will be the assembly site for the estimated $40 billion aircraft manufacturing contract. An estimated 2,000 aerospace industry jobs are expected to be created as a result of the win.” – from this article

    It’s not good news for Boeing – but it *is* great news for Mobile, AL …

  30. Megan D says:

    I agree with your last comment Alasdair…..great news for Mobile but sucky news for me based on I was supposed to move to Wichita, KS this summer where one of the big Boeing plants is! lol The economy is gonna SUCKKKKKKKK there so I guess I’m just gonna keep my butt in good old Kansas City instead.

  31. Alasdair says:

    I worked for McDonnel Douglas in the first half of the 80s … the DC series of aircraft are remarkably robust/resilient, as long as they are properly maintained …

    The military cutbacks back then did a number on the economy of Southern California …

    Megan – depending on what your job is/was to be at the Boeing plant, you might still be OK …

  32. Steve Muenstermann says:

    This is amazing. How can a division of our government believe that there is any possible value in buying a non-US manufacturer for the airframe?

    The dollar is at its weakest point and getting weaker. Our industrial base is moving overseas at a rapid pace and obviously being endorsed by our government. Our country (regardless to what the so-called experts say) is in a recession. (High fuel & energy prices, high grain prices, housing market crash, mort. co. crash, etc., etc) Now we want to make things worse by shifting our military resource dependency to foreign countries?

    If Boeing has value issues make them step up and deliver. But sending this to N.G. & Airbus is a huge US mistake. If the dollar continues to weaken we will get shotty planes due to a low profit interest. (Regardless of what the contract says)Late deliveries, loss of US jobs, loss of US revenue, weaker military image.

    Knowing that the build is in the US as little gain for the US. Profit, infrastructure and profit all goes to Europe. The same liberal bunch that abandoned our military in out strike on terror.

    Keep America strong! Buy American!!!