Paris: European aerospace major EADS scored a small, but psychologically important, victory against Boeing in the ongoing ''tanker wars,'' by winning a deal to sell air refuelling tankers to Saudi Arabia on Thursday. The two aerospace giants, Boeing and EADS (along with Northrop), have just submitted their final bids for a $40bn contract to supply up to 179 tankers to the US Air force.
EADS said it had won a tender to sell three refuelling tankers to the Saudi kingdom. Its Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft are adapted from A330 jetliners built by subsidiary Airbus. The decision by a top US ally to back EADS was hailed by the European company as a breakthrough ahead of similar contests in the US and Britain.
"EADS' position as a global leader in advanced aerial refuelling systems has been strengthened by this key win," said EADS chief executive, Louis Gallois. He also said that European refuelling equipment had so far been chosen by six air forces.
Boeing and EADS, in conjunction with Northrop Grumman, are vying for major tanker contracts in the United States and in the UK.
Boeing however appeared to play down the award as old news as it merely confirmed news that had leaked prematurely last year in February, when news for sale of two tankers was announced and then immediately retracted as negotiations continued.
The EADS/Northrop combine is trying to challenge Boeing's decades-old dominance of the tanker market.
EADS officials are understood to have expressed great satisfaction at the outcome saying that the deal was significant for the US tanker contest and that it couldn't have come at a better time.