July 9, 2010 in Nation/World

EADS submits tanker bid

Airbus parent downplays WTO ruling on subsidies
Dominic Gates Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Airbus parent company EADS on Thursday submitted its proposal for the U.S. Air Force aerial refueling tanker to the Pentagon, a day ahead of the deadline for submissions.

Boeing is expected to submit its proposal today, and both sides are preparing for a win.

EADS said it will move its tanker program headquarters to Mobile, Ala., on Monday.

Meanwhile, in Everett, Wash., Boeing is shifting production of its 767 tanker candidate to a new lean assembly line that it hopes will lower the cost of its tanker.

In a news conference Thursday, EADS leaders declared confidence in their ability to win the $40 billion contract on the merits of their A330 airplane. But when asked about political opposition to their bid in Congress – heightened by publication last week of a World Trade Organization ruling that the A330 benefited from illegal government subsidies – the frustration of top EADS executives was palpable.

“We spend all our time talking about a bunch of crap which has no relevance to whether you are going to get airplanes that can fly for 50 years and adjust themselves to a changing environment with substantially greater capabilities,” said Ralph Crosby, chairman of EADS North America.

“Wasting a lot of time trying to derail a process because somebody is worried because their airplane is inferior is a major distraction.”

Laying out his grounds for confidence, Crosby said the EADS airplane is “in most regards identical to the aircraft we have developed for the Royal Australian Air Force, of which two are flying.” In contrast, he asserted, Boeing “doesn’t have anything flying that represents what they will offer.”

Boeing vehemently disagrees.

Late last month, Elizabeth Lund, vice president of the 767 program, said that while the 767 tankers that Boeing has built for the Italian and Japanese air forces don’t meet all the U.S. Air Force requirements, neither do the Australian EADS tankers.

“Neither tanker meets the exact spec,” Lund said. “They have significant changes they need to make.”

The terms defined by the Pentagon are widely seen as bringing the competition down to one of best price, given that both tankers will meet the required capabilities.

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