Michael Donley, Secretary of the Air Force, announced today that Boeing will supply the U.S. Air Force with 179 tankers derived from the company's 767 widebody to replace the aging KC-135 refueler fleet. The contract is estimated at $35 billion and is expected to generate 50,000 jobs. If the Air Force exercises options to buy additional tankers down the road, the contract could grow to as much as $100 billion.
In response to reporters' questions, Air Force officials admitted that the loser, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, which had proposed a derivative of the Airbus A330, has the right to protest the decision. The Air Force claims that the selection process, the third tanker selection in the past decade, was transparent and well communicated from the start, and that this should head off any protest by EADS.
The Air Forces of Italy and Japan have each ordered four of the KC-767 tankers.