Airbus Submits Bid for U.S. Military Mega-project

July 8, 2010
Boeing is expected to submit its proposal to supply new aerial refueling tankers on Friday.

Airbus submitted Thursday its bid for a $35 billion U.S. Air Force contract also eyed by bitter rival Boeing.

Airbus parent firm EADS confirmed in Washington that an 8,800-page bidding document was submitted to the Pentagon ahead of the Friday deadline for bids to supply new aerial refueling tankers to the U.S. Air Force.

"We are proud of our offering, which is the only one in this competition that is flying and refueling today," said European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. North America chairman Ralph Crosby.

The European firm is proposing a military version of its A330 commercial passenger airliner, the KC-45.

"We have delivered two copies of an 8,000-page plus proposition," Crosby said.

Boeing is expected to submit its proposal on Friday.

EADS said if it won the contract, a new aircraft manufacturing facility in Mobile, Ala., would create thousands of U.S. jobs.

The kudos and cash that comes with producing 179 aircraft for the U.S. military has seen barbs already fly between Airbus and Boeing, with accusations of unfair competition hurled back and forth.

A third company, US Aerospace, has announced it would put up a last-minute bid in partnership with the Russian-Ukrainian manufacturer Antonov.

But its ability to meet U.S. military requirements remains uncertain, given its serious financial difficulties. And Antonov has not confirmed its participation in the project.

US Aerospace said on Wednesday that it would like the bid deadline extended by 30 or 60 days.

According to sources, the Air Force will make its decision by mid-November. It will be the third time a decision has been made on the project.

In 2003, Boeing won the lucrative contract, but the decision was overturned after a conflict of interest between the Pentagon and the aircraft manufacturer was revealed.

A senior purchasing manager at the Department of Defense had been negotiating her employment with Boeing at the time of the bid. The Air Force official was later convicted of criminal conspiracy.

Airbus won a second call for proposals in a joint bid with U.S. firm Northrop Grumman in 2008. Again, the decision was annulled when the U.S. Government Accountability Office found the offers were incorrectly analyzed.

Northrop-Airbus subsequently withdrew from the race, triggering an uproar in Europe, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel accusing Washington of bias in favor of the all-American Boeing plane.

Now, back in the running, Airbus starts without a major partner, instead teaming up with 200 suppliers, including several big-name U.S. firms, including General Electric, Honeywell, Hamilton Sundstrand and Goodrich.

Copyright Agence-France Presse, 2010

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