EADS Finds Partners to Bid for U.S. Air Force Contract

CEO is confident that EADS can beat Boeing for the $35 billion deal to supply the U.S. Air Force with 179 aerial refueling tankers.

EADS, the European aerospace giant, has found the U.S. partners it needs for its bid for a major US Air Force tanker contract, chief executive Louis Gallois said on June 2.

"We have the complete team of partners we needed for sensitive equipment but we don't give the names because we don't want to put them under pressure," he said.

EADS had previously held talks with U.S. companies Raytheon and L-3 and the U.S. arm of British firm BAE Systems.

Gallois remained confident that EADS had a bid that could beat rival Boeing to the $35 billion deal to supply the US Air Force with 179 aerial refueling tankers. He insisted EADS' design -- a militarized version of the A330 aircraft made by Airbus -- was the "best airplane."

"We see the nervousness of Boeing attacking us every day in the press. If we have no chance, why would they attack us?" he asked.

The two firms' long-running contest for the contract has been plagued by scandal, intense lobbying in the U.S. Congress and transatlantic tensions. EADS and its former U.S. partner, Northrop Grumman, originally won the contract in February 2008, but the deal was cancelled after Boeing successfully appealed the decision to Congress.

In 2003, the Pentagon awarded a contract to Boeing but later suspended the deal after an ethics scandal.

Gallois also expressed confidence that "we will find solutions" to the crisis in the eurozone, saying that in Europe, "it's when we are near the cliff that we take decisions".

He was more concerned about the austerity measures introduced by EU governments facing huge deficits following the financial crisis, and the possible effect they might have on military spending.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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