Arizona legislators are joining the knock-down, drag-out fight between Boeing and Airbus/Northrop Grumman over who will build the next-generation aerial refueling tanker for the U.S. Air Force.
Four state lawmakers sent a letter Thursday to the Department of Defense, urging that Boeing win the $40 billion contract.
They cited the 1,100 new jobs and $40 million annual economic impact in Arizona from the activity of subcontractors if Boeing wins and the perceived danger of relying on foreign suppliers involved in the Airbus/Northrop Grumman proposal.
“We need to keep our defense capability in-house,” said Sen. Robert Blendu, R-Litchfield Park, at a news conference Thursday.
“To me, it is a red flag when we’re discussing moving military manufacturing offshore. We can’t let it get away.”
Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Arizona AFL-CIO labor union also are urging that Boeing build the next-generation tankers, which refuel aircraft in midair.
In a letter sent to the secretary of the Air Force Monday, Napolitano said the Boeing bid provides the best combination of military capabilities, operating efficiency and job creation.
“Selecting Boeing’s model would not only save American taxpayers an estimated $10 billion in fuel costs but also create a positive environmental impact and contribute to our country’s energy independence,” she wrote.
Among Arizona suppliers expected to benefit if Chicago-based Boeing wins are Honeywell International, Acme Electric, Aviation Communication and Surveillance Systems, Hamilton Sundstrand Corp. and American Aerospace.
The Air Force wants to replace more than 500 of its existing tankers, which are 40 to 50 years old. The Pentagon approved a plan to lease new tankers based on the 767 airframe from Boeing in 2004.
But that decision was revoked after an investigation into improper contacts between the Pentagon and Boeing.
That set up the competition between Boeing and the Airbus/Northrop Grumman partnership for the contract, with the Pentagon scheduled to make a decision at the end of this month.
Rep. Sam Crump, R-Anthem, supported the competitive bidding process but added the
Boeing proposal is the best.
“They offer a tanker with lower life cycle costs ... and they have 75 years of experience in the aerial tanker industry,” he said.
Rep. Theresa Ulmer, D-Yuma, slammed the business practices of Toulouse, France-based Airbus and its parent, EADS, saying they are supported by European government subsidies that violate World Trade Organization rules and have bribed foreign governments to win contracts. “The bid on a crucial military project should not be granted to a foreign contractor with outlaw behavior,” she said. The lawmaker group also included Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix.
Northrop Grumman spokesman Randy Belote refuted the legislators’ arguments, saying the Airbus/Northrop Grumman proposal would create about 1,000 jobs in Arizona and $80 million in annual economic benefits to the state. He said about 60 percent of the total work would be performed in the United States, including the final assembly of the tankers at a plant in Mobile, Ala.
Although many of the parts for the aircraft, which would be based on an Airbus A330 airframe, are made in Europe, he said Boeing also has many foreign suppliers.
“The Boeing 767 fuselage is built in Japan and the tail in Italy,” he said, “The notion that jobs would be lost overseas (if the consortium wins the job) is patently false.”