WASHINGTON — Boeing submitted its bid today for the Air Force’s $35 billion refueling jet contract as the military tries once again to pick a winner for the troubled program after several failed attempts.
Boeing will compete against the North American branch of the European aerospace company EADS, which put in its own bid late Thursday.
The competition, which pits the world’s foremost jet makers against each other, is the latest Pentagon effort to award the contract over the past decade. Earlier attempts foundered over contractor disputes, Air Force errors, and criminal cases involving officials at the Pentagon and Boeing.
The Air Force plans to award the contract in November to replace 179 of its aging KC-135 refueling planes. It is expected to be the first slice of a project worth up to $100 billion to build a new fleet of jets.
Already, the latest attempt to get the program off the ground has faltered.
EADS, formally known as the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., was originally partnered with Northrop Grumman, but Northrop dropped out earlier this year. The company said the Air Force’s wish list for the plane favored Boeing’s smaller jet, a military variant of the Boeing 737 passenger plane.
EADS said it would still offer a version of the A330 commercial plane, made by its Airbus subsidiary. EADS said its plane was superior, despite the misgivings of former partner Northrop.
Boeing’s supporters in Congress from Washington state and Kansas, where the company has large manufacturing facilities, are pressuring the Pentagon to consider a recent World Trade Organization ruling against Airbus.
The trade body concluded that European governments had given illegal subsidies to Airbus to help it develop commercial jets. Boeing’s backers claim that type of aid gives Airbus an unfair edge in the tanker competition.
Boeing shares dipped 9 cents to $64.64 in morning trading.
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