Pentagon Lays Out Time-Table for New Tanker Contract

Governor Riley is confident Northrop Grumman will win the tanker contract again.
Governor Riley is confident Northrop Grumman will win the tanker contract again.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The countdown is on to find out which company will win the much soughtafter refueling tanker contract. Will the Pentagon award the $35 billion Air Force tanker contract to Alabama?

Earlier in 2008 the Air Force gave the contract to Northrup Grumman EADS, which plans to build the giant re-fueling jets in Mobile. That move would creating thousands of new jobs for Alabama.

But after the losing bidder, Washington-based Boeing Corporation, protested the Pentagon put that contract on hold.

In a press conference Wednesday the Pentagon laid out a time table for deciding which company will get the bid, and it appears we could know the answer by the end of the year.

The new planes will replace the Air Force's current fleet that dates back to the 1950's. If Northrop prevails again it will means tens of thousands of construction jobs and a permanent workforce of about 2,000 highly paid aerospace workers.

A pentagon spokesman says the re-bidding process has already begun. "We would then hope to close discussions around the end of November, early December," said Shay Assad. "... and complete our evaluations and award right around new years."

After the Pentagon announcement, a confident sounding Governor Bob Riley says the Northrop plane is clearly superior and will prevail over the Boeing model initially rejected by the Air Force.

"We're going to win this tanker project in Mobile," said Riley Wednesday, "watch what happens to Montgomery once we do." Riley says just like with the automotive plants, the tanker plant will need a supplier base.

Northrop Grumman Corporation estimates the contract will create 5,000 new jobs throughout Alabama. It would mean an additional $280 million a year in economic growth in Alabama, bringing the total economic impact to more than $1 billion a year. If chosen, one of Northrup Grumman's major suppliers would be already be located in the state; GKN-Westland Aero in Tallassee would build wing panels for the KC-30 tanker jets.

It's no wonder why Governor Riley is so excited about the prospects.

You can watch the entire press conference in the video section.