Could the KC-46 face competition from Airbus’ A330neo

EVERETT — Could Airbus’ A330neo give the European airplane maker a chance at winning the next contract from the U.S. Air Force for aerial refueling tankers?

It is certainly possible, says aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton of Issaquah-based Leeham Co.

Boeing’s KC-46 won the first contract to provide the USAF with 179 tankers after a procurement scandal. The tankers are assembled at its Everett facility. Airbus’ A330-200-based tanker lost that round because, in part, it was more expensive.

The Air Force will bid out the next contract sometime early next decade.

“A competition is all but certain,” Hamilton said in his company’s blog, Leeham News and Comment.

The A330neo could offer lower operating costs than the KC-46, which is slated to soon start test flights, he said.

Boeing’s KC-46 program has lost several overseas sales to Airbus’ A330-200-based tanker. An A330neo version could mean even tougher competition.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454;; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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