PARIS - Airbus parent EADS will not make a solo bid for the U.S. tanker contract after its partner Northrop Grumman pulled out.
EADS, the parent company of Airbus, had partnered with Northrop Grumman to vie for the 179 tanker order, but their consortium pulled out on Monday. They said the terms of the deal appeared designed to eliminate its design in favor of a smaller jet offered by rival Boeing Co.
The announcement left Boeing as the only bidder for the project. It is offering a version of the 767 commercial airplane to replace the U.S. Air Force's 1960s-era fleet of KC-135 tankers. The plane would be built in Everett and Wichita, Kansas.
In Paris, EADS CEO Louis Gallois maintained that the EADS design — based on Airbus A330 — makes a better tanker than the Boeing alternative.
"We deeply regret that the U.S. Air Force will not get the best available airplane," he told journalists.
Northrop Chief Executive Officer and President Wes Bush said in a statement that the Pentagon's guidelines for the program "clearly favors Boeing's smaller refueling tanker" but that the company would not file a formal protest.
Gallois told reporters Northrop's withdrawal meant: "We have no chance to win in the competition in these conditions."
A final contract will be awarded in September.