Final guidelines will be released next week for the latest round of bidding on a disputed $40 billion contract to replace an aging fleet of Air Force refueling planes, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

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WASHINGTON — Final guidelines will be released next week for the latest round of bidding on a disputed $40 billion contract to replace an aging fleet of Air Force refueling planes, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

The two likely bidders — Boeing and a team made up of Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense and Space (EADS) . — met today for the third time in two weeks with Defense Department officials at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Company and Pentagon officials discussed the forthcoming request for proposals (RFP) that will outline the government’s specifications for the airborne tanker.

Pentagon spokesman Chris Isleib said the document could be given to the two companies as early as Monday.

A draft version was released earlier this month as part of the second round of bidding on the contract that has fueled a bitter rivalry between Northrop-EADS and Boeing. The Northrop-EADS team was originally awarded the contract, but Boeing protested. The bidding was reopened after a Government Accountability Office review found errors that could have unfairly favored Northrop.

Boeing’s supporters have said the language in the latest request is still weighted in favor of the Northrop-EADS team’s larger plane and that the timeline — a contract award is expected by the end of December — is too tight for Boeing to make any changes.

Boeing spokesman Dan Beck said in an e-mail today that the company “appreciated the opportunity for further discussions” and “would welcome any continued dialogue.” He would not comment on details from today’s meeting with Pentagon officials.

Northrop said in a statement that it did not seek today’s meeting, but that the Pentagon’s “openness” on the changed requirements means Boeing “will be hard-pressed to say they did not fully understand the amendments.”