While its a smidge too late to affect the decision now, Northrup Grumman ought to use the Grumman name to sell its new tanker program to the Pentagon.
Here is the issue in a nutshell. Boeing and the Pentagon got together to put together a deal to refit the Boeing 767 design into a new Air Force tanker. Called the KC-767, the first deal to build the plane was scotched after it was discovered that the program requirements were designed so that Boeing would be the only bidder.
A few folks went to prison. Very bad. Then the bidding was opened up again. Of course, Boeing is rebidding. But to compete against Boeing, EADS (that’s the real name of Airbus) and Northrop Grumman got together to devise their own plan, a reworked version of the Airbus A330 called the KC-30. While it looks like an Airbus, the technology is so different that they have given it a new name, and rightly so.
The issue that Northrop Grumman faces is that Pentagon officials and some American policymakers believe that the plane is European, even though the Boeing plane is partly built outside the U.S., and the KC-30 will be built in the U.S.
What’s the solution? A name change. Northrop Grumman and EADS need to use the Grumman aircraft and aerospace brand to help sell the project. While it’s too late in the bidding process to have an effect on the outcome, Northrop Grumman needs to realize that its brands, like Grumman, have value, and if they were used, they would be powerful. They can only be powerful if they are used.
The Grumman brand has a wide value; it after all was kept by Northrop Grumman when it was born as a conglomerate. Not only did Grumman build the lunar module, they built the Grumman Goose, F-14 Tomcat and Grumman Gulfstream. And they made those way-cool Grumman boats. Most would agree with this inerrent fact–that Grumman is powerful and interesting brand, and it is a good and appropriate brand for tankers that need to refuel planes over water, as the Grumman brand has the associations of its amphibious planes.
Using the Grumman name on the KC-30 program would not be disingenuous. The Mini is, after all, a reconstituted car made by BMW. Since the design and important manufacturing is done in Britain, it is a British car. Pan American World Airways also used this approach when it re-branded a French plane into the Falcon Jet.
Northrop Grumman and EADS have said, ’til they are blue in face, that this program, if approved by the Pentagon, will establish a new center of aviation excellence in the U.S.; that it is not just a warmed over import. They have not gotten far with their argument, though it has some merit. The solution would be to rename the entire program Grumman Aerospace, and reinvigorate a great American brand name as a business unit of EADS and Northrop Grumman.