Edited from AP StoriesCongress has approved a defense bill that opens competition to foreign companies for a multi-billion dollar contract to supply fueling tankers for the Air Force. Boeing lost the tanker contract, estimated to be worth at least $20 billion, in 2004 amid an ethics scandal. President Bush is expected to sign it. "Buy America" language had been inserted by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. The provision was removed last month at the request of Senate leaders and administration officials, who said it could spark retaliatory measures by other countries and limit Pentagon flexibility. Congress voted final passage Dec. 21.
No companies were named, but lawmakers said the amendment was aimed at disqualifying the parent company of Airbus from bidding on the tanker contract.
European Aeronautic Defense and Space (EADS) Company has said it plans to team with Northrop Grumman to offer a tanker version of its Airbus A330 passenger jet to produce a new generation of aerial refueling tankers. Last year, EADS said it would build a manufacturing plant in Mobile if it wins the tanker contract.