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Boeing, Northrop Grumman Clash Over Tanker Contract

Aircraft companies Boeing and Northrop Grumman are locked in a battle for an air tanker contract from the U.S. Air Force. The fight has stretched from courtrooms to Capitol Hill, as legislators representing the companies' respective districts join the fray.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    A big-dollar Air Force decision that has sparked fights on Capitol Hill and between defense contractors. Congressional correspondent Kwame Holman prepared this report.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Across the Internet and in full-page ads, a war has raged in recent weeks. Two worldwide aviation giants, Boeing and Northrop Grumman…

  • AD NARRATOR:

    The highly versatile KC-30 carries 25 percent more fuel than the KC-135.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    … have battled over whose plane would make the best air refueling tanker for the U.S. military. It's a question the Air Force believed it settled on February 29th.

    MICHAEL WYNNE, Secretary of the Air Force: Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to announce that the development and procurement of up to 179 new KC-45A tanker aircraft is awarded to Northrop Grumman Corporation.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    But Boeing has filed a protest claim to the Government Accountability Office saying it did not receive fair evaluation. Boeing says its air refueling tanker to be converted from 767 passenger planes is better than Northrop Grumman's, and the Air Force itself indicated that at a post-decision briefing.

    Boeing Vice President Mark McGraw.

  • MARK MCGRAW, Boeing:

    I was expecting to get wire-brushed pretty good during that debriefing. But at the end of the briefing, frankly, I felt I had just heard the winner's brief. I mean, they loved our airplane. We had many more strengths than our competitor.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Boeing's protest has forced Northrop Grumman to freeze work on their $35 billion tanker contract until June, while the Government Accountability Office reviews the Air Force's selection process.

    Northrop Grumman says that delays its tanker, urgently needed by the military, as the two companies engage in expensive lobbying of members of Congress, which ultimately could override the Air Force decision.

    Ronald Sugar is chairman of the board of Northrop Grumman.

  • RONALD SUGAR, CEO, Northrop Grumman:

    In terms of lobbying expenses, it's really ironic. We put our best effort into this job, considerable resources to provide the Air Force with what we thought was absolutely the best airplane and giving the best design.

    We're not sitting here trying to win the job. We've won the job already. Our important message is to get the facts out about what we are and what we are not.

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