NEW YORK (
) -- After having a roughly $35 billion U.S. Air Force aerial-refueling tanker contract reneged on by the government when its auditors decided to uphold U.S. rival
protest against the 2008 agreement, Airbus' European parent
looks to be gunning for the contract again, this time without partner
The latter had bowed out of the latest bidding race, citing an uneven playing field favoring Boeing.
As the industry anxiously awaited news confirming that EADS would indeed bid for the latest contract and that the Pentagon would indeed grant the company a 90-day extension to have more time to prepare for a bid -- while already having granted the company prime-contractor status --
in winning the refueling plane contract.
The results were strong: Some 78.9% of respondents felt that Boeing has a clear advantage and will win the contract, while a mere 21.1% felt that EADS still has a legitimate and fair shot at winning the bid.
Since we put out the poll and began tallying your responses, the government conveyed a readiness to extend the bidding deadline for the contract, though not by the number of days that EADS had hope for. The Airbus parent was asking for 90 more days, but the Pentagon appears set to grant it 60 more days, until July 9, if EADS decides to go ahead with an official bid -- much to Boeing's chagrin.
As Boeing awaited the final bidding deadline decision, the company announced that it was "fully prepared" to present a proposal by the original May 10 deadline, but would "review all of our options for going forward while we wait for a final determination on a deadline extension."
A Boeing spokesman didn't clarify what exactly the company meant by this, according to the
but Lexington Institute defense analyst Loren Thompson told the
that he interpreted it as to mean that if Boeing feels that anything is being done to advantage its competitor, it will file a protest or take other legal action.
In a statement on April 1, Boeing said "we do not see a legitimate reason for EADS's bid deadline extension request, and we believe an extension that favors any individual competitor does not further the goal of ensuring fair competition."
Meanwhile, U.K.-based aerospace analyst Saj Ahmad with FleetBuzz Editorial published a report on March 31 that said "EADS' continued indecision about whether it will bid" on the contract is "endangering the lives of people who need new tankers." Ahmad added that he has been stunned by the French government's "hypocrisy" in the entire matter because "they have only given consideration to the
A330 for their tanker needs, not even allowing the
767 to feature." France, which holds a 15% stake in EADS, has on numerous occasions accused the U.S. of skewing the bidding process in Boeing's favor.
During a press conference following his meeting with President Obama at the White House late March, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said EADS would pursue the contract if the playing field was fair and open, according to
"I said to
Obama, I trust you; if you tell me that the tender will be fair and transparent, then EADS will bid and we trust you," Sarkozy said, according to
Lexington Institute's Thompson doesn't think that EADS will move ahead with an official bid, given that the bidding process hasn't changed since Northrop Grumman bowed out of the race, citing favoritism towards Boeing, according to
-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York
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