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Ukrainian plane to enter Air Force tanker contest

Ukrainian plane to enter Air Force tanker contest

A tiny, cash-strapped California aerospace supplier says it has teamed with the Ukrainian manufacturer of Antonov aircraft to make a longshot bid for the U.S. Air Force tanker contract.

The company, called US Aerospace, is delinquent on federal and state income and payroll taxes, as well as two car loans, according to a regulatory filing last month. And its latest quarterly statement warns that its financial troubles "raise substantial doubt" it can survive without raising more money soon.

All that would presumably change if the late entrant can wrest the $35 billion tanker contract away from bidders Boeing and Airbus parent EADS, which have battled over the 179 plane job for years.

But that's a big if.

US Aerospace said it signed a joint-venture agreement Thursday with the Ukrainian state-owned company Antonov, and immediately notified the U.S. Department of Defense it would join the tanker competition.

"We anticipate bidding three models of aircraft, the AN-124-KC, AN-122-KC and AN-112-KC," the company said in a regulatory filing.

"The airframes will be built by Antonov in Ukraine, with final assembly in the United States. We believe that we will be able to offer a superior aircraft at a significantly lower price than other potential bidders."

The company, which is based near Los Angeles, said its agreement with the Ukrainian plane maker also contemplates bidding for other U.S. defense contracts and selling Antonov's aircraft and services commercially in the U.S.

Besides needing money, US Aerospace faces the challenge of receiving special security clearances because of secret military systems built into the airplane. EADS is tightly bound into the defense establishment of Western Europe that is allied with the U.S., and has the classified clearances it needs to build the tanker.

Source: - 2 July 2010

Photograph by Xair Forces Aviation News


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