$35 Billion Tanker Choice Expected Soon

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This Thursday, the Air Force is expected to announce the winner of a $35 billion contract to build 179 military tanker aircraft. The two contenders for the contract are Boeing, with a 767 derivative, and EADS, with a design based on the Airbus A330. EADS has said if it wins the competition, it will assemble the airplanes in Mobile, Ala., although many of the parts will be built in France. Both companies have won previous versions of the contract, but those decisions were overturned. The new airplanes, to be built over the next 20 to 30 years, will replace the aging KC-135 and KC-10 fleet, some of which are 50 years old.

George Behan, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., told the Puget Sound Business Journal that as of Tuesday, the Thursday date was set for the announcement, but it could be pushed back. "Everything associated with this contract has been changed, slipped and altered," he said. "[A Thursday announcement] is what we're hearing as of Tuesday afternoon, but anything could change." As of Tuesday, various online pundits were speculating that the long-contested contract, which has been in play for about a decade, might go to either party, or to neither one.