That tanker order might not be going to Northrop and EADS after all

Remember that huge ruckus earlier this year when Northrop and EADS won a contract to supply the US Air Force with a multi-billion dollar tanker order?

Americans went livid when they found out that a partially European (not French) company was going to be supplying equipment for the US Armed forces and the entire affair turned into a political whining point. People claimed that the French (not Europeans) would be taking American jobs, although many would still be created with Northrop plan, and few seemed to take some time to look at the facts: Boeing’s aircraft was the weaker tanker.

On departing the competition, the Chicago based airframe manufacturer vowed to fight on, and lo and behold, their appeal to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found traction. Earlier this week the office determined that the competition was held unfairly and that the Air Force gave extra points to the opposing team where they shouldn’t have; you can read the gory details in this WSJ article, but I won’t bother you with them.

While these findings aren’t binding requirements to force the Air Force to rerun their competition, it’s a step in the right direction — an earlier recommendation by the GAO to rerun a helicopter manufacturing contract passed and is currently underway.

Now, if the entire competition goes back to the drafting table, Boeing will have a second chance to proffer the “correct” tanker and take another stab at America’s “overseas competition”. All at the cost of countless engineering, design, management, political and lobbying hours and even more tax dollars.

Fair is fair though, and as several commenters on the the above post and the GAO point out, you can’t award a contract on an uneven playing field.

May the best aircraft win.