Boeing, Northrop tanker news

The Boeing Co. announced it was laying off 800 defense workers in Wichita, Kan., due in part to the delay in the U.S. Air Force tanker competition.

The layoffs will impact managers and both salaried and hourly workers. Boeing will deliver 60-day layoff notices to approximately 76 employees Nov. 21. Their last day of work is scheduled for mid-January. The company will deliver the balance of the layoff notices throughout 2009, with most occurring in the first half of the year.

“We regret the need to reduce employment. We understand the disruptions that layoffs cause in personal lives and in our community,” said Scott Strode, vice president and general manager of Boeing Wichita, in a statement. “However, a combination of events are limiting our business options and forcing us to reduce our current employee total. We also are taking steps to restructure our business in order to lower our rates and become more affordable for customers.”

Here’s Boeing’s press release.

Boeing’s rival for the tanker contract, Northrop Grumman today sent out an e-mail emphasizing Boeing’s expansion abroad. The “American-made” aspect of the two tankers was an issue in the previous competition and will likely be a key concern under the Obama administration.

From the Northrop-backed America’s New Tanker Now e-mail:

As you’ll recall, a key issue repeatedly raised by Boeing’s supporters was that Boeing is the truly “American” competitor, while the tanker that Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman has proposed to build for the Air Force in Mobile, Alabama is somehow “foreign” due to Northrop Grumman’s relationship with a European based supplier. It is almost certain we’ll hear this again, which is why a story distributed today by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua is particularly relevant.

That story celebrates Boeing’s expanding relationship with and reliance on China for parts for many of the aircraft the company builds. “Boeing Co’s aircraft parts joint venture in China launched an expansion project in Tianjin,” the government news organ reports.

Despite a major economic crisis in the U.S. that is causing US unemployment levels to rapidly rise the story adds that “Boeing said it had purchased more than 1.5 billion U.S. Dollars worth of aviation hardware and services from China since the 1980s and the figure would more than double in the coming years.”

Compare that to Northrop Grumman, which plans to invest heavily in Alabama in order to build the tanker and has lined up 230 American suppliers to provide parts and services. While Boeing is proud of its ability to create jobs in China, Northrop Grumman plans to create 48,000 new tanker related jobs here at home – with four new American factories to be constructed so the work can be done. …

The point?

When the tanker replacement competition resumes, do not believe everything you hear about which company is the most American. It is not only untrue, it’s a distraction from what is really important – The United States Air Force needs a new tanker now and, with a tanker aircraft as well as a refueling boom that have been built, tested and flown, only Northrop Grumman is ready now to provide it.

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