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Verbal sparring begins as military refueler bids submitted - again

An F-16 from the California Air National Guard aligns with the boom from a Boeing, KC-135 Stratotanker. On Thursday, Boeing and Airbus’ parent company EADS America submitted competing bids for the third time for a contract to build a new tanker. (File)

Final bids were submitted Thursday by Boeing and Airbus' parent company, EADS for the contract to build the Air Force's in-flight refueling tanker. The Air Force could announce the winner as early as next month, but the award is likely to be sidetracked by politics and protests.

Boeing's bid is based on the company's 767 commercial jet. A Boeing win would mean keeping the 767 assembly line in Everett going for years to come. EADS would assemble its Airbus A330-based tanker in Mobile, Ala., but has yet to build a factory there.

The fight has been a nasty political one.  Boeing won the contract initially but malfeasance caused the project to go back up for bid. EADS, in a partnership with Northrop Grumman Corp., won in February, 2008, but the challenge by Boeing caused another delay.

The verbal jabs between the two companies have already begun. According to The Herald of Everett's Michelle Dunlop, EADS North America Chairman Ralph Crosby, Jr. calls Boeing's offer a "concept tanker."

“We're offering a real aircraft that has proven what it can do for our men and women in uniform, not asking the Air Force and U.S. taxpayers to take a huge gamble on an airplane that only exists on paper,”

The Herald reports that Boeing CEO JamesMcNerney noted that his company is up against a “subsidized competitor” — a reference to a lengthy trade dispute between Boeing and Airbus.

"It is not lost on us that Boeing is an outstanding company in Alabama," EADS vice-president Sam Adcock told The Birmingham News . "But when it comes to airplanes, boy, we're going to go at it. We intend to win this thing and we intend to bring it to Alabama."

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