The Washington Post reported on Friday that European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) has chosen to build a $600 million aircraft plant in Mobile, Alabama. Kiln, Mississippi, and North Charleston, South Carolina, were also in the running for the new EADS site. I'm sure it didn't hurt Alabama to have two powerful Republican senators, one of which is on the Armed Services Committee and the other on the Appropriations Committee. EADS CEO Ralph Crosby says this was a strategic decision, based on port access to the Gulf of Mexico, airport runways and a skilled workforce. Others see this as an opening salvo by EADS to go after the Air Force tanker contract in which Boeing and DOD politics had been entangled.In addition to adding high-paying jobs to a Southern state, EADS is offering grants to universities in Florida, Mississippi, and South Carolina to allow students to study at their future engineering center in Mobile. EADS is hoping that, through a combination of offering Congress another "domestic" source for an aircraft manufacturer and capitalizing on Boeing's bad press, they just might have a shot at winning the AF tanker contract. A Boeing spokesman simply stated, "There is no tanker replacement program [right now], so there is nothing for us to address at this point."Boeing's model 367-80 was the basic design for the KC-135A Stratotanker, and the first KC-135's were bought in 1954. About 550 tankers still remain in service. The Air Force had re-engineered most of the tankers with new engines and other improvements that allow the tankers to offload 50 percent more fuel at 25 percent cheaper costs. As of May 2002, the Air Force had 545 KC-135 tankers, 134 being the "E" models and 411 being the reengineered models. Had Boeing been awarded the tanker contract, most of the remaining tankers were to be replaced by 2009.-- Armchair Generalist
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