The long-drawn out campaign to award a contract for the supply of 179 refuelling tankers for the US Air Force drew to a close with the Pentagon declaring Boeing Co as the winner. It expressed the hope that the award would not be challenged as it said the process was fully transparent and the decision was made on cost differentials rather than on the merits of the aircraft.
The contract is worth atleast $35 billion.
The tanker contract is one of the biggest in history and is expected to provide an estimated 50,000 jobs. This one factor alone made it one of the most politicised decisions ever in the history of weapons contracts with Congressional representatives weighing in on the decision-making process in favour of their constituency interests.
Boeing and European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS), manufacturer of the Airbus, had each been awarded the contract once before, only to have it annulled on challenges which alleged impropriety in the contracting process.
The Air Force's 500-strong tanker fleet has become dangerously out of date with many of the refitted Boeing 707s atleast five decades old and among the oldest jets still flying.
The entire tanker fleet is expected to be replaced over the next 10 to 20 years, and follow-on contracts are expected to be issued over subsequent decades for a total of up to $100 billion.