EADS Confident Of Win In Air Force Tanker Battle

PARIS (AP) -- The chief of Airbus parent EADS said Monday his company is confident of winning a revived battle for a $35 billion Pentagon contract for aircraft refueling tankers, despite a recent global trade ruling against Airbus.

"We are confident that our project is the best," Louis Gallois told reporters in Paris. "We showed the United States that we are capable of winning in the United States."

European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. NV and partner Los Angeles-based Northrop won the deal to replace 179 aging American planes in February 2008. Boeing later successfully protested the award after U.S. congressional investigators found the U.S. Air Force failed to evaluate both proposals on the same merits.

The Air Force is now poised to reopen the competition for the troubled $35 billion (euro23.89 billion) contract.

Gallois declined to give details of the updated EADS-Northrop bid, saying, "We will see in the coming weeks."

The new bidding comes after a preliminary World Trade Organization ruling earlier this month that said European loans for Airbus amounted to illegal subsidies. Boeing has since said it should be taken to account in deciding the Pentagon contract.

Gallois said the WTO decision "cannot be taken into account" because it is preliminary and because the WTO will not rule for several months on a counterclaim by Airbus against the United States that claims the Pentagon and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are indirectly subsidizing Boeing.

Though the WTO decision has cast a shadow over the Pentagon contract, Gallois was upbeat, saying EADS and Northrop are entering in the new race "in pole position."

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