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New Bidder Enters KC-X Tanker Competition

A new bidder has entered the competition to build the Air Force’s KC-X mid-air refueling tanker, replacing Boeing’s aging KC-135 Stratotanker which has been in service since 1957.

Earlier this month, Northrop Grumman announced that it would pull out of the bidding process, leaving Boeing the apparent winner of the contract, but the parent company of Airbus (Northrop Grumman’s teaming partner on the project) has requested more time to submit a proposal, according to a senior Pentagon official.

DoD is considering European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co.’s (EADS) request for an additional 90 days to prepare its bid, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters on Friday.

The Pentagon is considering allowing a “reasonable extension” to the May 10th deadline, Whitman said, without specifying how long that might be. Extensions aren’t unusual for RFPs and are considered on a case-by-case basis.

EADS posted a statement to its website on Friday that other issues could affect its decision to compete against Boeing Co. for the Air Force KC-135 modernization program contract, estimated to be worth $35 billion.

Whitman reiterated an interest in the broadest competition possible. “The department remains committed to fair and open competition and welcomes proposals from all qualified offerers,” he said.

On March 11th, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “I wish that we had had a competition; I wish that both companies had stayed in it.  I think the RFP that the Air Force sent out was fair and balanced and was based on Air Force requirements,” but added that he “[doesn’t] see any reason for this outcome to bring any further delays.”

If DoD allows the 90-day extension, EADS will compete with Boeing for the $35 billion contract.

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