Page last updated at 19:43 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 20:43 UK

EADS to make solo bid for US refuelling tanker

Computerised image of the Northrop Grumman/EADS mid-air refuelling aircraft
Northrop and EADS were planning to use an Airbus design

European aerospace giant EADS has said it will make a solo bid for the $35bn (£20bn) contract to build a new fleet of US military air refuelling tankers.

EADS and US partner Northrop Grumman abandoned their planned bid for the deal last month saying the process was biased against them.

They had argued that the terms of the tender favoured US group Boeing.

EADS re-entered the race after the US government extended the bid deadline. It has until 10 May to make a bid.

The EU has pledged to watch the tendering process very carefully, with Brussels having earlier said it would be "extremely concerned" if EADS was prevented from fairly bidding for a major US defence deal.

Scandal

The US Air Force is seeking to replace its ageing fleet of 1950s-built KC-135 air tankers, which refuel other military planes in mid-air.

The process has had a protracted history - to say the least - despite the only competing parties being EADS and Northrop Grumman on one side, and Boeing on the other.

Boeing was initially awarded the contract in 2003, only for it to be subsequently cancelled after an ethics scandal that saw a US Air Force official convicted of criminal conspiracy.

The official in question was said to have unfairly promoted the Boeing deal.

Northrop Grumman and EADS then won a contract in February 2008, but this was subsequently cancelled following a Boeing appeal.

At the time, there was substantial political opposition in Washington to the involvement of EADS, which owns Airbus, the European rival of US-based Boeing.

Until they abandoned their latest bid interest in early March, Northrop and EADS planned to supply a tanker plane based on the large capacity A330 plane made by EADS subsidiary Airbus.

Boeing's tanker, the KC-767 is based on its smaller 767 plane.



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