WASHINGTON – The Air Force is likely days away from handing out one of the biggestcontracts in years — a deal valued at up to $40 billion to replace 179 planes in its fleet of aerial refueling tankers.
For the three companies bidding, there is more at stake than just the monetary award: jobs and reputation.
. has supplied the Air Force with refueling tankers for nearly 50 years and doesn’t want to let go of that. The incumbent is considered the favorite to win — an assumption already reflected in its stock price.
But European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. and its U.S. partner,., want to be in on the game. For -based EADS, the parent of rival , the contract is an entree into the massive American military market just as overseas spending cools. And for , it would tap into a major new military revenue stream at a time when Pentagon spending may be leveling off.