EADS boss Louis Gallois this morning hit back at critics of the US Air Force’s choice of the Northrop Grumman-EADS offering over Boeing’s rival to supply its KC-45 aerial refueling tanker.
On learning that Boeing is to officially protest the contract, Gallois said: “We see the [selection] process as exceptionally transparent, professional and fair. And, we have the feeling that we have the best product.”
He stressed, though, that Northrop Grumman, as prime contractor, was responsible for all legal issues associated with the contract.
The award surprised many observers, who had assumed Boeing would be the natural choice to supply American forces in one of the largest defence deals ever and were shocked that a rival relying on significant European content was chosen.
Northrop will build its tanker based on an Airbus A330 airliner to be built in Mobile, Alabama.
Speaking at a presentation in Paris of EADS’ 2007 financial results, Gallois added that the award would not directly impact EADS’ plans to expand in North America by acquisition, but said the result was encouraging: “As part of our strategy we want to show that we are good citizens in the US.”
Of the other major group military project, the A400M airlifter, Gallois said the company was still working towards first flight this summer, consistent with expectations of a 6 to 12 month delay in the project.
He added that flight testing would be a critical time, though, as the A400M was a particularly complex aircraft with its all-new and very large engine and new wing.