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Air Force says it will Formalize Tanker Contract

Derek Wang
01/29/2007

The Air Force says it will issue final requirements for a contract on a new refueling tanker within the next several days. So far, only two contractors—Boeing and Northrup-Grumman have expressed interest. And Northrup recently hinted it may drop out. But as KUOW's Derek Wang explains, the move may not necessarily help Boeing.

TRANSCRIPT

THE AIR FORCE SAYS IT NEEDS TO REPLACE ITS AGING TANKER FLEET THAT DATES BACK TO PRESIDENT EISENHOWER'S ADMINISTRATION. DEFENSE OFFICIALS SAY THE CONTRACT FOR 179 PLANES WOULD BE WORTH ABOUT 40 BILLION DOLLARS.

BOEING HAS PROPOSED BUILDING THE TANKERS BASED ON THE 767 OR THE TRIPLE 7, DEPENDING ON WHAT THE AIR FORCE SAYS IT WANTS.

BOEING'S RIVAL, NORTHRUP-GRUMMAN, HAS PROPOSED USING MODIFIED VERSIONS OF THE AIRBUS A330. THAT MODEL OFFERS MORE CARGO SPACE AND FUEL CAPACITY THAN BOEING 7-67.

HOWEVER, THE AIR FORCE REQUIREMENTS SO FAR, DO NOT CALL FOR THAT ADDITIONAL CAPACITY. NORTHRUP GRUNMAN EXECUTIVES SAY THAT CRITERIA FAVORS BOEING, AND HAVE SAID THEY MIGHT WITHDRAW.

IF NORTHRUP ENDS UP DROPPING OUT, THE MOVE WILL LIKELY LEAD TO INCREASED SCRUTINY FROM CONGRESS. MICHIGAN SENATOR CARL LEVIN, CHAIR OF THE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, SAYS HE WANTS THE AIR FORCE TO HAVE MORE THAN ONE BIDDER.

THE DEAL COULD LEAD TO AN EVEN BIGGER CONTRACT FOR MORE TANKERS THAT'S ESTIMATED TO BE WORTH MORE THAN 100 BILLION DOLLARS.

I'M DEREK WANG, KUOW NEWS.

© Copyright 2007, KUOW

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