Thursday

25th Feb 2021

Europe drops bid to supply US with military aircraft

  • No longer possible: Europe's Airbus refueling an American B2 bomber (Photo: EADS/Northrop Grumman)

European aircraft constructor EADS on Monday (8 March) gave up a €25 billion contract to build tanker planes for the US military, which would have secured thousands of jobs in Britain, France, Germany and Spain, but no longer had political backing in Washington.

Statement on US refuelling tanker programme announcement

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The contract, aimed at replacing 179 ageing American military tankers, was secured in 2008 by Europe's defence giant EADS, a Franco-Spanish-German company producing the well-known Airbus planes.

But during the presidential campaign, Barack Obama and his team lashed out against the deal for securing jobs outside the US at the expense of American aircraft constructors such as Boeing.

The Pentagon subsequently re-launched the bid last month and changed the requirements so that Boeing's smaller tanker model could qualify.

EADS and its American partner Northrop Grumman said in a statement they withdrew from the new tender because it was biased towards Boeing's "smaller, less capable" aircraft.

"It is no longer [a case of] the best plane and no longer fair competition," Airbus head Thomas Enders told Financial Times Deutschland.

The EU commission also expressed veiled criticism at the protectionist US move. "It is highly regrettable that a major potential supplier would feel unable to bid for a contract of this type. Open procurement markets guarantee better competition and better value for money for the taxpayer", trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement.

Ironically, Boeing had won the contract in 2003, only for it to be cancelled after an ethics scandal that saw a US Air Force official convicted of criminal conspiracy.

Northrop Grumman is not planning to sue the US government for changing the tender criteria, because it did not want to be held responsible for delaying the process further. "America's servicemen and women have been forced to wait too long for new tankers," the company said in a press release.

A few lawmakers in the US also regretted the withdrawal, such as Alabama senator Richard Shelby, whose state would have seen 300 new jobs in a promised assembly line for the Airbus tanker.

"The Air Force had a chance to deliver the most capable tanker possible to our warfighters and blew it," Mr Shelby said.

But the decision represents a bigger blow to thousands of workers in Britain, France, Germany and Spain.

Under the trans-European proposal, the wings for the planes would have been made in Britain, fuselages in France and Germany, tails in Spain and the aircraft would have been equipped by Northrop in the US.

It is also bad news for the European company's global ambitions, as it already faces credibility problems due to delays and the soaring costs of its A400M military transporter.

The company on Tuesday announced it lost €1.05 billion in the last three months of 2009, compared to a net profit of €490 million a year earlier.

EADS reached last-minute agreement with customer nations last Friday, who agreed to put in another €3.5 billion into the airlift project, allowing it to survive.

Green Deal

EU sets out plan to mitigate 'unavoidable' climate events

Extreme climate-related events cost the EU's economy €12bn annually. Brussels aims to reduce the so-called climate protection gap - the difference between insurance protection and total losses - which is widening due to more frequent extreme weather events.

Opinion

Questions for Germany on EU's Russia strategy

Suspension or cancellation of Nord Stream 2 does not call for a drawn-out search for unanimity by the EU's foreign ministers, nor complex ratification procedures in the European Parliament or member states' parliaments, write three former EU prime ministers.

News in Brief

  1. Armenian prime minister denounces 'coup' attempt
  2. UK warns EU against escalating City-of-London battle
  3. Brussels mulls extending data-roaming regime for 10 years
  4. Full list of European firms US forced to ditch Russia pipeline
  5. French diplomat calls Johnson 'inveterate liar'
  6. French town's switch to vegetarian meals prompts backlash
  7. Police seize 23 tonnes of cocaine in Europe's biggest haul
  8. WHO Covax programme delivers first vaccines to Ghana

Opinion

Questions for Germany on EU's Russia strategy

Suspension or cancellation of Nord Stream 2 does not call for a drawn-out search for unanimity by the EU's foreign ministers, nor complex ratification procedures in the European Parliament or member states' parliaments, write three former EU prime ministers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Who are the EU's new Russian deplorables?
  2. Afghan asylum family beaten in Greece, set adrift at sea
  3. EU leaders face Covid-mutations dilemma at summit
  4. EU sets out plan to mitigate 'unavoidable' climate events
  5. Questions for Germany on EU's Russia strategy
  6. Greenland's snap election exposes global mineral demand
  7. Covid-19 certificates back on EU leaders' agenda
  8. Ethiopia war creating new 'refugee crisis', EU envoy warns

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us