There may be a solution: If the Europeans swallow their pride, and buy American military-transport planes, then maybe the U.S. Air Force could stifle its own protectionist urges and award a much-disputed $40 billion contract for aerial-refueling tankers to EADS and its U.S. partner, Northrop Grumman Corp.
The Europeans have a refueling tanker -- the A330-200 -- which is already up and flying. The Americans have well-tested military-transport planes. Why reinvent the wheel when there is one already on the shelf?
Surely, burden sharing is what the trans-Atlantic alliance is all about. Why should the U.S. and Europe be duking it out for orders when in another 20 years, they will both be desperate to save their defense industries from being cannibalized by China and India?
Where does one begin?
It is interesting for a moment to consider whether Boeing might accept giving up its monopoly on USAF tankers in return for splitting the market for global airlift between the C-17 and C-130J. But that moment passes quickly. The USAF needs hundreds of tankers, and the world probably needs only dozens of new C-17s. Meanwhile, Airbus trades a deeply troubled program for a production bonanza and an industrial foothold in their competitor's backyard. How do you think that arrangement goes over with the US Congress?
My advice: Avoid taking advice from Bloomberg columnists.