US air tanker deal angers politicians

13 March 2008

13 March 2008 | Paul Snell

The US Air Force's decision to award a $1.5 billion (£755 million) contract to build air tankers to Northrop Grumman and its European partner EADS has caused anger among US politicians.

The deal to build 179 refuelling planes, which will be based on EADS' commercial A330 aeroplane frame, was announced at the end of February.

Senators Sam Brownback, Pat Roberts and congressman Todd Tiahrt quickly issued a joint statement, saying they would demand answers as to why the contract was not awarded to the US firm Boeing, creating new jobs in the country, rather than in Europe.

"I will work to ensure this decision is reviewed at the highest levels of the Pentagon and Congress. At the end of this laborious process, I hope the Air Force reverses its decision," said Tiahrt.

Senators and representatives have also signed an open letter to defence secretary Robert Gates and Air Force secretary Michael Wynne to begin the debriefing process immediately so politicians and the public can understand its rationale. The Air Force said the deal meant taxpayers got the best value in a competitive market.

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