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Northrop, Airbus to bid on U.S. refueling plane

Thu., Sept. 8, 2005

LOS ANGELES — Northrop Grumman Corp. said Wednesday it will team up with the parent of European aircraft-maker Airbus to bid for a contract to build a new refueling plane for the U.S. military.

The joint venture pits Northrop and the North American unit of the European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co., against Chicago-based Boeing Co.

“This is going to be an American airplane built for the U.S. Air Force,” said Randy Belote, a Northrop spokesman.

Boeing lost a $23.5 billion deal to make the tanker last year after information surfaced that it had hired a top Air Force acquisitions official who later admitted giving the company preferential treatment.

“We have more than 75 years experience in aerial refueling technology. We are ready and look forward to a competition on a level playing field once the Air Force defines its requirements,” said Boeing spokesman Paul Lewis.

If awarded the contract to build the KC-30 tanker for the Air Force, Northrop said it would be the principal contractor and EADS would be the main subcontractor.

Northrop also builds warships, missile defense systems and unmanned surveillance aircraft.

More than 50 percent of the work to manufacture the aircraft would be done in the United States, creating more than 1,000 jobs, Northrop said.

EADS North America was expected to build an assembly plant in Mobile, Ala., where the aircraft, modeled after the Airbus A330 commercial jet, would be built.


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