After Northrop exit, Boeing says it's still in Navy MQ-25 competition

By Lee Hudson / November 16, 2017 at 11:13 AM

Despite Northrop Grumman's decision to drop out of the Navy's MQ-25 carrier unmanned tanker program, Boeing continues to be focused on the competition, according to a top executive.

Chris Raymond, who oversees Boeing's autonomous systems business within the company's defense group, told reporters at Boeing's Arlington, VA, office Wednesday that "you can't let up for a minute."

The Navy determined only four companies were eligible to bid for the competition: Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Wes Bush, Northrop Grumman's chief executive, announced during a call with analysts last month the company would not bid on MQ-25 because the company "could not put forward an attractive offering to the Navy."

Boeing, General Atomics and Lockheed Martin all confirmed to Inside Defense they still intend to bid on the MQ-25 competition.

Vice Adm. David Johnson, principal military deputy to the Navy's acquisition executive, told reporters earlier this month the service knew Northrop was "worried" about the request for proposals because MQ-25 requirements are focused on an unmanned tanker operating from an aircraft carrier.

"Their X-47B, if they derived off of that, it would've taken some redesign to keep it competitive," Johnson said.

While defining requirements and writing the final solicitation, the Navy conducted "concept refinement studies" and worked with industry, he said.

"It just takes a lot of work -- the CNO personally met with all four [companies] and met twice with [each of] them," according to Johnson.

Raymond praised this approach, noting Boeing wants to have "absolute clarity" on the requirements to make its bid affordable.

"That drives a lot of back and forth when you're at that point of the process," Raymond said.