EADS offers to split tanker deal
PARIS — European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., the parent of aircraft maker Airbus SAS, has proposed splitting a contested U.S. Air Force contract for refueling tankers with its rival Boeing Co., the European group’s U.S. office said Friday.
Diane Murphy, vice president of EADS North America, said by phone that the defense group had signaled readiness to share the order with its Chicago-based rival.
“What we’re saying is that we believe it could be split and that this is acceptable to us as well,” Murphy said.
The EADS offer comes after the Pentagon reopened the competition for a multibillion-dollar contract for 100 mid-air refueling tankers that had been previously awarded to Boeing.
Asked to respond to the EADS comment, Boeing spokesman Doug Kennett said: “The Department of Defense and the Air Force are in the process of reviewing their options. It will be the government that will make the decision on how to proceed on the tanker program.”
Boeing lost the $23 billion order to convert 767s into tankers amid a growing corruption scandal centering on former Air Force official Darleen Druyun, who admitted giving special treatment to Boeing on the tanker deal and other contracts.
Druyun, who later joined Boeing as a top executive, was sentenced to nine months in prison after she pleaded guilty on felony charges. Former Boeing chief financial officer Michael Sears has also pleaded guilty for his role in hiring her.
EADS has invested $106 million on improving its original U.S. tanker bid, which is based on a conversion of the Airbus A330 passenger jet.
The United States is currently locked in a World Trade Organization dispute with the European Union over public aid to Airbus and Boeing, and Airbus CEO Noel Forgeard has conceded this could complicate efforts to secure the tanker deal.
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