Manufacturer names Mobile as assembly location for A330 variant pitched at USAF

EADS North America will compete for a US Air Force inflight refuelling tanker order using a plan to build a $600 million assembly centre in Mobile, Alabama that would be sized to support additional work beyond the air force contract.

EADS tanker site

Mobile’s state-supported bid topped more than 70 proposals to host the potential US final assembly plant for the KC-330, which EADS estimates will generate 1,000 jobs and include an Airbus engineering centre to begin operations next year. Mobile offered a former USAF base that will enable EADS to build an assembly facility within 2,000ft (600m) of a deep-water port, says EADS NA chief executive Ralph Crosby. Talks are under way with Alabama officials on a list of site improvements required before EADS will accept ownership, says Crosby, who has not detailed any of the tax incentives the company would receive under the deal.

The EADS announcement comes as the USAF continues analysing its needs to replace its 530-aircraft Boeing KC-135 tanker fleet. Boeing almost received a contract in late 2003 to build 100 KC-767As, but that deal was scuppered by an acquisition scandal involving senior air force and Boeing officials.

USAF budget documents released this year project spending about $9 billion on the tanker programme over the next five years, with the first four aircraft to be delivered in fiscal year 2010. Full-rate production of 15 aircraft a year is expected to start two years later.

Crosby says the Mobile facility would be able to support the assembly of 25 aircraft a year, with room for expansion required in the bidding process.

Announcing the site location supports EADS’s growth strategy for the US aerospace market and could help it overcome legislation approved by the House of Representatives that would bar any company facing a World Trade Organisation dispute with the US government from doing business with the US Department of Defense.


Source: Flight International