Air tanker procurement scrapped

11 September 2008

12 September 2008 | Jake Kanter

The US Air Force has cancelled a $35 billion (£19.7 billion) contract to build air tankers.

The deal to construct 179 refuelling planes was awarded to Northrop Grumman and its European partner EADS in February, but the decision caused anger among US politicians (news, 13 March 2008).

Senators Sam Brownback, Pat Roberts and congressman Todd Tiahrt demanded to know why the contract was not awarded to US firm Boeing, creating new jobs in the country, rather than in Europe.

A new deal was to be announced in January, but defence secretary Robert Gates said it could not be awarded because there was too little time and the decision would be contested again. He said it would be best if the next US administration takeover the procurement process, following the presidential election in November.

Gates said in a statement: "It is my judgment that in the time remaining to us, we can no longer complete a competition that would be viewed as fair and objective in this highly charged environment. The resulting "cooling off" period will allow the next administration to review objectively the military requirements and craft a new acquisition strategy."

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