October 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 6 
Industry Wrap

It's official: Northrop to team with EADS for USAF tanker bid

Northrop Grumman and European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.(EADS), the main parent of Airbus, officially said last month they will jointly compete to replace U.S. aerial-refueling tanker planes.

Northrop Grumman and EADS said that the two companies would field a tanker based on the A330 airframe from Airbus, which is 80 percent owned by EADS, in any U.S. Air Force competition for new tankers. In a press release announcing the teaming, Northrop Grumman said it would be prime contractor for the aircraft and that EADS would be "a principal subcontractor and teammate."

According to the Wall Street Journal, Northrop Grumman's announcement of the pairing seemed phrased to deflect political opposition to the alliance. Some members of Congress oppose a Northrop Grumman–EADS teaming because of a continuing World Trade Organization dispute between the United States and the European Union over commercial-airplane subsidies, the article reported.

According to a Dow Jones News Service report, the Air Force has no timetable for conducting a competition for new tankers.

Despite the Northrop Grumman–EADS alliance, Boeing executives said the company is confident it can meet the Air Force's tanker needs. "Boeing has a complete family of aircraft to ensure requirements as defined by the U.S. Air Force can be met," said George Muellner, vice president and general manager of Boeing's Air Force Systems business.

Boeing last month said its industry Global Tanker Team, which is currently working on aerial refueling tankers for Italy and Japan, has agreed to partner if the Pentagon and the Air Force decide to seek new tankers. In a news release, Boeing said the tanker program "could support significantly more U.S. aerospace jobs than any other competitor."


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