Would Offer Privately-Owned DC-10s For USAF Use
Ever heard of Omega Air? The privately-held, Ireland-based
company has made a pretty good name for itself over the last five
years by offering contract refueling services to the Air Force
using a refitted Boeing 707... and now, it's looking for a bigger
piece of the pie.
Last Friday -- the deadline for the Air Force's request for
information on its next generation tanker program --Omega submitted
an intriguing offer: the use of up to 60 modified DC-10 tankers, to
compete with Boeing's offer of a 767-based tanker and Northrop
Grumman's A330-based KC-30.
Besides the choice of aircraft, Omega is also adding a new twist
to the tanker program: all of Omega's planes would be privately
owned, and the Air Force would contract refueling services from the
company... as it does now with that 707 we mentioned earlier.
While the Air Force wouldn't have direct authority over the
tankers, Omega says the Air Force would decide the schedule... and
most importantly, the Air Force wouldn't have to pay for the
planes, or the pilots. That gives Omega a significant price
advantage... especially as it can pick up used DC-10s relatively
cheaply on the commercial market.
"That's a very strong position to have if there's a budget
crunch," said Teal Group aircraft expert Richard Aboulafia.
Others, however, doubt
that privately owned planes could meet the Air Force's strict
"The Air Force believes that it needs absolute control over a
large and capable fleet of aerial refueling tankers," said
Lexington Institute defense consultant Loren Thompson to CBS
Marketwatch. "If you procure these services from the outside, you
will only have a contractual claim on the aircraft."
Aboulafia maintains that Omega's offer is "a contrarian
approach" to the tanker competition... which, given earlier
procurement scandals and current squabbling between Boeing and
Airbus over WTO issues... could wind up being the most logical
approach of all.