In the New Tanker War, Boeing Kicks It Up a Notch

The new proposed bid requests aren't even out yet for the Air Force's refueling tanker, but you can already bet on a protest if the $35 billion contract once again goes to Northrop Grumman/EADS.

Boeing's political supporters today previewed a new strategy to win the contract for Boeing's manufacturing sites in Washington and Kansas. They stood in front of the Boeing Tanker Trailer, parked outside the U.S. Capitol, to make it clear they expect a "fair" competition.

Apparently, the competition won't be "fair" if the Air Force and the Pentagon ignore the reported preliminary finding by the World Trade Organization that at least some Airbus planes have benefited illegally from subsidies.

So far, the military says it sees no need to change its upcoming request for bids because of the WTO decision.

Au contraire, says the pro-Boeing group, which is going on the offensive early and hard. Hear them hammer home the theme of fairness in soundbite after soundbite-you can see where this is going if Boeing doesn't win.

Here are Senator Murray (D-WA), followed by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, the lone Republican in the group who goes after John McCain, and, finally, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA).

Will the campaign work?

Rep. Inslee mentions, almost in passing, that Boeing's tanker will be more cost effective over the long haul, but performance and capabilities took a back seat to fair play today. Can Northrop and EADS effectively respond?

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