WASHINGTON — The US Air Force said Thursday it has awarded Chicago-based Boeing Co. a $35 billion contract to build the next generation of airborne refueling tankers.
The decision is a major blow to the European aviation giant the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.
The decision probably will end a decade-long cross-Atlantic struggle to replace the Air Force's fleet of 1950s-era air tankers.
"What we can tell you was that Boeing was a clear winner," said US Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn in announcing the decision at the Pentagon.
The announcement was a surprise as defense analysts and even some lawmakers had expected EADS to be awarded the contract. It also was a blow to the southern state of Alabama, which had been counting on EADS to assemble the aircraft at a long-shuttered military base in Mobile.
Production of the tankers will occur in Everett, Washington, Wichita, Kansas, and dozens of other states where hundreds of jobs will be created. Boeing has said the contract will create some 50,000 jobs.