Boeing said it will formally protest tomorrow the Air Force decision to award a potential $40 billion contract for refueling tankers to...

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Boeing said it will formally protest tomorrow the Air Force decision to award a potential $40 billion contract for refueling tankers to Northrop Grumman and the European parent company of Airbus.

“Our team has taken a very close look at the tanker decision and found serious flaws in the process that we believe warrant appeal,” said Jim McNerney, Boeing chairman, president and chief executive officer. “This is an extraordinary step rarely taken by our company, and one we take very seriously.”

Boeing, which has supplied Air Force tankers for five decades, had proposed a tanker based on the Everett-built 767. The Department of Defense on Feb. 29 picked Northrop and EADS to build a plane based on the Airbus A330, to be assembled at a new plant in Mobile, Ala.

“Based upon what we have seen, we continue to believe we submitted the most capable, lowest risk, lowest Most Probable Life Cycle Cost airplane as measured against the Air Force’s Request for Proposal,” McNerney said. “We look forward to the GAO’s review of the decision.”

Boeing said it would provide additional details of its case in conjunction with the protest filing on Tuesday.