Airbus, Lockheed join forces to pursue U.S. military refueling orders - sources

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BERLIN, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Almost eight years after losing a historic U.S. Air Force tanker competition to rival Boeing Co , Europe's Airbus is teaming up with a new partner, top U.S. arms maker Lockheed Martin, to pursue billions of dollars of follow-on orders, sources familiar with the matter said.

Airbus and Lockheed signed an agreement in Madrid last week that marks the company's first major bid to secure a foothold in the huge U.S. military market since its failed 2012 bid to merge with Britain's BAE Systems and its large U.S. unit.

The agreement kicks off a rerun of an epic battle between the world largest planemakers - Airbus and Boeing - that lasted for nearly a decade and saw two former Boeing executives sent to federal prison for ethics violations.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Thomas Seythal)