Airbus parent company EADS ( European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company) announced this week it will compete without a U.S. partner to build the next generation of aerial refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force. Airbus/EADS previously dropped out of the tanker competition and said it would not bid without a U.S. partner.
The long-running competition to build a replacement for the aging fleet of Eisenhower-era tankers appeared to be drawing to a close earlier this year when EADS and erstwhile U.S. partner Northrop Grumman dropped out of the competition, complaining that the government’s bidding process favored the tanker design proposed by Boeing.
EADS-Airbus now says it will submit a bid on July 8, 2010, following an offer by the Pentagon to delay bidding by two months in response to the whining by Airbus.
U.S. lawmakers were quick to condemn the extension for the heavily subsidized plane maker, citing a recent ruling by the World Trade Organization that Airbus has for years received illegal, trade-distorting subsidies that have hurt U.S. aerospace companies and undercut American workers. The ruling included a finding that the A-330, the very plane that Airbus plans to put forward in the tanker competition, has been built using illegal subsidies.
“Holding this competition up to allow an illegally-subsidized foreign company to bid is bad for American workers, our men and women in uniform, taxpayers, and our economy,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). “It means we are bending over backwards to include a company that has broken the rules of fair play. A competition between companies on an equal playing field is one thing. A competition where American workers have to compete with the treasuries of European countries is another.”