Boeing vs. Airbus/Northrop: $35 billion tanker deal up for grabs - again


It looks like the Pentagon is poised to try for a third time to award a $35 billion contract for 179 airborne refueling tankers. This contract, which could ultimately be worth $100 billion by 2030, is going out to two bidders: Boeing (BA), and EADS' Airbus subsidiary in partnership with Northrop Grumman (NOC). The competition pits Boeing workers in Washington state and Kansas against Northrop employees in Alabama.

The previous two attempts to bid out this contract have resulted in failure, but the Air Force is hoping the third time will be the charm. The first one, in 2003, was tainted when it turned out that Boeing's then CFO offered Darleen Druyun, then the Air Force's number two acquisitions official, a job at Boeing even as she was involved in awarding the tanker contract. The second failure took place last July when presidential politics and a June 2008 Government Accountability Office report detailing "significant errors" in awarding the contract combined to scuttle the deal.