Vol. 6, Issue 1, March 18, 2008
Boeing, Airbus Lose Air Force Contract to Nintendo
American aerospace giant Boeing is still reeling over the revelation that the Air Force awarded a $35 billion contract to Nintendo for 179 aerial refueling tankers. The contract is the second-largest Pentagon contract ever.
For Boeing, which had a similar contract rescinded when it came to light that an Air Force procurement official landed a top position with the aerospace company, the new award is a serious blow. The company's supporters in Congress and the states of Connecticut, Washington and Kansas are furious.
"Yeah, they gave jobs and a few extra perqs to some of the Air Force folks making the decision before," said Kansas Congressman Percy Tullah. "Is that wrong?... Oh, wait, it is? Since when? How come nobody told me?"
The Nintendo Corporation was just as shocked as Boeing, particularly since it did not enter a bid for the Air Force contract.
"We thought the Pentagon was calling us about a mass order for 'Guitar Hero III,'" said Glen Forsythe, Nintendo vice president of development. "The military buys a heck of a lot of video games. To be honest, we're not sure how we're supposed to fill this order, though for $39 billion we will sure give it a shot."
Apparently, the Air Force found the motion sensing technology in Nintendo's popular Wii game controller more impressive than anything either Boeing or its principal rival, Airbus, had to offer.
"It comes down to this: both companies were basically offering us planes," said Lt. Colonel Jerrod McTague, an unnamed Pentagon source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "There were many of us who felt that the Air Force needs to think more outside the box. Think about the possibilities of a mid-air refueling system controlled by a Wii motion-sensitive controller!"
McTague acknowledged that a Wii-based system might not offer any technical advantages - the fuel still needs to be delivered through a pipe or hose between one airplane and another - but it would be "extremely cool."
"Truth be told, we also thought this might help boost recruitment," admitted McTague. "It's kind of a hard sell, convincing kids to join the Air Force so they can work at a flying gas station."
Airbus protested the decision, insisting that it is just as cool as Nintendo, despite being partially controlled by the French, and that it plans to file an appeal.
"Okay, so the A380 was behind schedule," said Henri Foulet, someone with an unpronounceable title who answered the phone at Airbus when we called. "And did not, technically, 'fly'. But we were definitely the best choice for this extremely lucrative Air Force contract, because we have the greatest appreciation for what you can buy with $39 billion. I mean, what would Boeing be buying with the money - Big Macs? Oversized Humvees? We, on the other hand, have a plethora of civilized ways to spend the money. Champagne, a few well-chosen mistresses, and don't forget the gambling tables at Monaco."
Boeing is being more cautious in its response.
"We are certainly unhappy about the decision," said Boeing spokesperson Kerry Jackson. "However, we don't really want to annoy the folks at Nintendo. If they cut off our Wii supply, I'm not sure we could predict the consequences."