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Airbus Wins New Orders For Its A330-Based Tanker

UAE, Saudi Arabia Select MRTT Over KC-767

Don't look now... but Airbus appears to be steadily increasing its foothold on the global aerial refueling market, at a time when the company is locked in competition with Boeing for a lucrative US Air Force contract. On Wednesday, reports surfaced of two new global orders for Airbus' A330-derived tanker, from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports neither order is very big -- two for Saudi Arabia, three for the UAE -- but those are just numbers. The true significance from both orders lies in the fact two more customers have selected Airbus, over Boeing and its KC-767 tanker offering.

News of the selection of the Airbus KC-30 Multi-Role Tanker Transport, or MRTT, follows earlier announcements from the governments of Britain and Australia they were also going with the Airbus plane, over the Boeing offering. Boeing has secured orders for the KC-767 from Italy and Japan.

"Boeing would like to thank the United Arab Emirates for considering the KC-767 Tanker," the company said in a prepared statement. "We were hoping that the U.A.E. would delay any tanker acquisition decisions until the US Air Force selected its KC-X competition winner in October. That would have allowed them to consider our new KC-767 Advanced Tanker platform as our best offer."

The appeal of each plane depends on how each country plans to use it. The larger A330-derived MRTT can carry more fuel than the KC-767, as well as more cargo and passengers. Conversely, Boeing touts the narrower focus of the 767-based offering -- its emphasis is on aerial refueling, with airlift duties of lesser importance -- as well as its cheaper price tag.

Analysts believe the latter point still gives Boeing the advantage when it comes to landing the 179-plane USAF tanker contract, as the Air Force looks to replace its aging fleet of KC-135s. But with Airbus winning more orders overseas... the competition may still, in fact, be Boeing's to lose.

FMI: www.airbus.com, www.boeing.com

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