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10 Sep 08. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Pentagon is calling off a disputed $40 billion competition to replace its aging fleet of aerial refueling tankers because officials don’t think they can pick a winner before the next presidential administration, according to people familiar with the situation. The decision is a major victory for Boeing, which had lost the initial competition to a team comprised of Northrop Grumman and the parent company of Europe’s Airbus. (Source: WSJ)

This announcement comes days after AP reported that a high-ranking Air Force official pressed the Pentagon to expedite the award of a disputed $35bn contract for new aerial refueling tankers so the service can retire Eisenhower-era aircraft. Gen. Arthur Lichte, who runs Air Mobility Command, told reporters that either aircraft offered by Boeing Co. or Northrop Grumman Corp. were capable of the mission, but urged a quick decision to avoid placing further strain on the service’s already aging aircraft. “I don’t care which tanker wins,” said Lichte. “I just need a new tanker.” The four-star general said if the program is delayed by another year or more, the Air Force will be forced to fly some its current fleet past 2040, which would make those planes at least 80 years old. A Pentagon spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. The aircraft are used to refuel combat and other support planes in flight and have helped widen the range of the U.S. military’s reach. The planes have been used in operations in the Persian Gulf, the Balkans and Afghanistan.

This delay may cause a refurbishment Program to be awarded to Boeing for some of the existing tankers to kepe the fleet flying 24/7.

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