Airbus To Build Plane In US if It Wins Contract

Airbus parent said it would build both Airbus A330 freighters and Northrop Grumman KC-30 refueling tankers at a U.S. plant if Northrop wins a $40 billion U.S. Air Force tanker competition.

Top EADS officials made the announcement in Mobile, Alabama, as Air Force officials consider tanker bids submitted this month by a Northrop-led team that includes EADS and by Boeing. An award is due by late February at the soonest.

EADS, saddled by the euro's recent rise against the dollar, said the decision to build A330 freighters in the United States would result in "a robust final assembly line that ensures low risk, high efficiency and increased capacity for both military and commercial customers.''

EADS stressed the move was contingent on a win in the Air Force tanker competition.

"Selection of the KC-30 by the U.S. Air Force will not only provide the world's most capable military tanker, it also will result in the establishment of the first large commercial aircraft assembly facility in the United States in over 40 years,'' Thomas Enders, Airbus chief executive, said in a statement.

It would also be the first Airbus assembly in the United States, said Enders, a member of the EADS executive committee.

"This significant investment would effectively transform EADS and Airbus into a second U.S.-based producer and exporter of large commercial aircraft,'' Enders said, noting EADS was already the largest single international customer for U.S. aerospace products.

EADS said the Mobile site would be expanded to support the production of up to four aircraft per month, ensuring it could meet Air Force delivery requirements while fulfilling the A330 freighter's order book, which is already at 66 aircraft.

It said the proposed KC-30 production center would be expanded by 20 percent, adding at least 300 additional workers above the 1,000 currently slated for the tanker assembly.

Depending on when the Air Force made its contract award, construction of the combined freighter assembly line could begin as early as late 2008, EADS said.