Chicago-based Boeing Co. has won the $35-billion contract to build a fleet of aerial refueling tankers, possibly the culmination of a dramatic decade-long battle that the aerospace world has been following.
The bitter fight between Airbus parent company European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co., or EADS, and archrival Boeing. has been hard fought. There are tens of thousands of jobs at stake, and many in the defense industry believe that the lucrative tanker contract could be the last new major Pentagon purchase for years to come.
“It’s the kind of contract that is too hard to pass up,” said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a military policy research website. “It throws the company into the limelight and guarantees that they’ll be busy at a time when defense spending is expected to be pretty lean.”
Boeing has said that its winning bid would mean about 4,500 jobs in California, even though the bulk of assembly work will be done at an aircraft production plant in the Seattle area.
The winning aircraft is based on a modified Boeing 767 passenger jet. For 10 years, the U.S. Air Force has been trying to replace its Eisenhower-era tankers, which refuel warplanes in flight.