Dangers ahead in Air Force procurement: Aircraft contracts could reward Russia, French espionage and bribery, and other bad behavior

2004: “Deceptive” campaign to make EADS look more American, less French

Senator Murray denounced the EADS propaganda campaign to make the company look less French and more American.  “EADS and Airbus have launched a deceptive PR and lobbying campaign to convince the U.S. government that it is essentially an American company,” she said in May, 2004 [italics added]. “The Airbus campaign of half-truths is on full display as the company works overtime in Washington, D.C. to recreate a competition they already lost to build the next generation refueling tanker for the Air Force.”18

2006: EADS tries to pass self off as “American citizen”

The EADS drive to invest in American assembly plants at a time when its corporate restructuringis throwing thousands of Europeans out of work is a propaganda move designed to anchor a permanent foothold in U.S. politics so that it can influence Congress to buy its aircraft. The British Guardian newspaper made this point in December, 2006, when it reported, “The European aerospace group is fighting a growing protectionist mood in Congress, epitomized by ‘Buy America’ legislation. It hopes that by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new plants and creating thousands of jobs, it can convince skeptics that it is a genuine ‘American citizen.’”

The Defense Department is scheduled to award the contract for the KC-X tanker by October, 2007. Notes the Guardian: “By then, EADS, which will assemble its tankers in Mobile, Alabama, will already have learned whether its strategy of ‘invest in America,’ including the creation of a separate defense division [EADS North America] to win Pentagon security clearance, has paid off.”19

2007: Deceptive websites obscure the French connection

That deception campaign has bloomed this year, with the JCA and KC-X contract decisions occurring at almost the same time. EADS teamed up with well-known American companies to form “Team JCA” to compete for the Joint Cargo Aircraft. The official EADS Team JCA webpage, TeamJCA.com, plays down the EADS connection.

And the Airbus A330 tanker, dubbed KC-30 for the KC-X contract, is now the “Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker.” Northrop Grumman runs the KC-30 homepage, and while the site mentions that the tanker “is based on the highly successful A330 airliner,” it “says nothing about the manufacturer of the A330,” according to a critical site called TeamJCA.org. The official KC-30 site tells Americans nothing about EADS, Airbus, or any foreign partner.20

Critics argue that the missing foreign information is no accident. According to a critique of the KC-30 homepage, “A link to the ‘Full Overview’ on the Northrop Grumman site gives more details about the plane – again avoiding any mention of EADS or Airbus.

“None of the KC-30 homepage navigation links mention EADS or Airbus: not the ‘Commercial Success’ page, the ‘Tanker Operations’ page, the ‘KC-30 Performance’ page, the ‘Economic Benefits’ page, or the ‘Proven Tanker Solutions’ page.

“Digging deeper we find a ‘program update’ page that mentions an A330 development that took place in an ‘impressive EADS conversion facility,’ but again there’s nothing about EADS or Airbus actually owning, designing or building the plane.”21

The misleading nature of the Airbus tanker became integral to today’s EADS propaganda campaign. EADS North America issued a news release on January 19 to announce that the company had selected an Alabama site to “assemble large commercial aircraft to be militarized as the Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker.”

On January 31, EADS sent out another news release, this time announcing that its Air Refueling Boom System “will be integrated into the Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker aircraft.” 

About J. Michael Waller

J. Michael Waller is Senior Analyst for Strategy at the Center for Security Policy. His areas of concentration are propaganda, political warfare, psychological warfare, and subversion. He is the former Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school in Washington, DC. A former instructor with the Naval Postgraduate School, he is an instructor/lecturer at the John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg.