While Iowa has no major U.S. military bases, a 40-billion dollar defense contract for a new aerial refueling tanker jet could have a significant impact on the state. Boeing is competing with French airline manufacturer E-A-D-S/Northrup-Gruman for the contract. Mark McGraw, Boeing’s vice president of tanker programs, says if Boeing wins the contract, it will mean 16-hundred jobs and 60-million dollars for Iowa.
McGraw says "We do a build-up of these, looking not only at our subcontractors and the jobs we’ll have directly but also working down our supply chain to come up with those numbers. I can’t give you the exact list of companies in Iowa that make that up but we try to be very conservative in those numbers so we make sure we always surprise to the high side if we actually win the contract. You can have faith in those numbers."
McGraw says two large Iowa companies that would likely benefit from the contract going to Boeing, as opposed to overseas, include Quad Cities-based aluminum maker Alcoa and Cedar Rapids-based avionics company Rockwell-Collins. The new aerial refueling tanker would eventually replace the KC-135, an aircraft flown by the 185th Air Refueling Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard in Sioux City. McGraw says Boeing’s planned replacement has many updated features, including being much more fuel-efficient.
McGraw says: "All of us paying three bucks a gallon, we know what that’s worth. We had an outside group estimate that over the life of these 175 aircraft, it’ll save the taxpayers over ten-billion dollars, just in fuel savings." He says there is concern over the thousands of jobs and tax dollars that would be sent overseas if E-A-D-S were to be made a U.S. defense partner. McGraw says Iowans need to know about the jet contract because it could have such a positive impact on jobs and economic development here.
McGraw says, "As an example, Rockwell-Collins, a big presence in Iowa, has been a member of our Global Tanker Team for several years and they do help us get our message out." Over the next few months, the Pentagon will work to determine which company will get the contract, with a final decision expected in October.