In a matter of weeks - if not days - the Pentagon will announce whether Chicago-based Boeing Co. or European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company will build 179 new tankers to replace the Air Force's Eisenhower-era KC-135 planes.
It's a $35 billion contract to build nearly 200 giant airborne refueling tankers. And the decade-long brawl by two defense industry titans to win it has been just as epic.
The competition is more complex than the U.S. against Europe. If Boeing wins, the air tanker would be built in Everett, Wash., Wichita, Kan., and several other states. If EADS wins, the tanker would be assembled in Mobile, Ala. Either way, about 50,000 jobs would be created in the U.S.
And $35 billion could amount to a mere first installment on a $100 billion deal if the Air Force pushes ahead and buys more tankers.