The first phase of replacing the U.S. Air Force’s aging KC-135 tanker fleet has concluded.

The first phase of replacing the U.S. Air Force’s aging KC-135 tanker fleet has concluded.
 Pentagon officials announced Thursday  Boeing Co. won a $3.5 billion contract to begin development of the new tanker — now known as the NewGen Tanker. Boeing’s only competitor was European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. and Northrop — who initially won the contract three years ago.
“We went though a process that evaluated a lot of things, and that yielded Boeing being the winner,” said Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, during a briefing at the Pentagon.
In addition to Washington, Boeing’s manufacturing base, Kansas also stands to gain up to 7,500 new jobs with a projected economic impact of $388 million.
“I have been waiting a decade to say this — congratulations Boeing workers. This is a great day for the company, its employees as well as for our country’s economy and for Kansas,” said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in a statement.
The initial contract includes the development of a new tanker for the U.S. Air Force and delivery of four aircraft, with the first scheduled for 2018.
Initially, EADS won the contract in 2008, but after

a protest from Boeing, the process began again.
“This competition favored no one but the taxpayer and the warfighter,” Lynn said.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts had initially called for the replacement of the aging aircraft in 2001 when he served on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"This decision marks the end of a difficult chapter in our nation’s defense procurement process,” said Roberts. “Now it is time to get the new tanker in the hands of the warfighter.”
Both Boeing and EADS were informed of the Defense Department’s decision earlier Thursday and a contract has been signed for the first phase. Defense Undersecretary Ashton Carter said that work can begin after a debriefing of both bidders. That process begins upon a request for the debriefing by either of the competitors.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said the overall value of the contract is almost $30 billion and the difference in bids was more than 1 percent.
He added that Thursday’s briefing was the extent of the military’s public comment on the bidding process.
"We are confident that when they receive the aircraft, our young operators will have the best equipment possible," said Donley. "We've done exactly what we've said we were going to do and we did it right.”