Air Force delays tanker bid award

  • Mon Jun 21st, 2010 6:00pm
  • News

By Amy Rolph Herald Writer

Correction: The Air Force said June 18 that the winner of the $35 billion refueling tanker contract won’t be able to start work until November. This story, which relied on quotes from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the Pentagon had delayed its date for deciding on the contract. Pentagon officials said they have not delayed the decision. Although they have not set a specific date, they have said that they will announce the winner this fall.

A top Air Force official announced June 18 that the government will delay awarding a controversial tanker contract, delaying the decision by as much as two months.

The Boeing Co. is battling the European aerospace consortium EADS for the $35 billion contract. EADS subsidiary Airbus is a front runner to land the contract to produce the aerial refueler, and some say the U.S. government has given the company an unfair advantage.

Boeing’s tanker bid would likely be be based on its Everett-built 767 airframe.

The delay announced June 18 — the latest in a series of postponements — has some Boeing advocates calling foul.

“It’s now clear that the Pentagon is playing games,” said Sen. Patty Murray in a prepared statement.

The award for the aerial-refueling tanker was expected in early fall.

Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford told reporters June 18 that planning decisions led to the delay.

The announcement came after Air Force officials granted EADS a two-month extension to prepare its bid, causing some to question if the Pentagon is playing favorites.

At the time, the Air Force said the extension would not derail plans to award the contract in early fall.

Murray accused the Pentagon of making plans “to bend over backwards for Airbus,” and said the company is unfairly slowing the process down.

The World Trade Organization recently determined that Airbus received illegal “launch aid” subsidies for other aircraft programs.

Some members of Congress from Washington state are trying to penalize EADS for what they say is an illegal advantage in the bidding war.

The Fair Defense Competition Act, introduced this spring, would force the Pentagon to acknowledge and consider that Airbus received unfair help from European governments.

Read Amy Rolph’s small-business blog at www.heraldnet.com/TheStorefront. Contact her at 425-339-3029 or arolph@heraldnet.com.