If aerospace analysts and pundits were deciding, Boeing would already have one of the biggest military contracts of the 21st century in the bag already.
They’re saying that given Boeing’s home country advantage over its rival, Northrop Grumman and Europe’s EADS, the Air Force will give the $40 billion contract for new aerial tankers to Boeing as early as late next week.
Boeing is proposing a version of its 767 commercial airliner. EADS and Northrop Grumman are offering a tankerized Airbus A330 twin-engine commercial jet.
Boeing KC-767 refueling an F-22
The Boeing tanker would be assembled in Everett. The EADS tanker would be put together in a new plant in Mobile, Ala.
Boeing’s offering is smaller and an older design than the A330, but Boeing says its what the Air Force specified when it drew up its want list.
Airbus says the A330 uses newer technology, offers greater cargo-carrying capability when it’s not carrying fuel and is more fuel efficient for its size.
In this election season, however, don’t bet against Boeing.
The company has been on country-wide roadshow touting the 767 tanker’s benefits not only to the Air Force but to local communities where making pieces of the plane creates jobs.
Airbus notes that large parts of the 767 are made overseas in Italy and Japan.
EADS has upped the ante by saying it will build commercial freighter versions of the A330 in Mobile if it gets the contract.
The initial deal will be for 179 tankers, but the ultimate market could include more replacement aircraft for the Air Force’s 30-some-year-old tankers and for foreign air forces. In the end, the tanker deal could mean $125 billion in new business for the winner.
By the way, forget a face-saving split deal. The Air Force says it doesn’t want the hassle of dealing with two different planes doing the same job.