The U.S. Air Force's top weapons buyer said today that she expects the winner of a potential $40 billion refueling aircraft contract will...

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The U.S. Air Force’s top weapons buyer said today that she expects the winner of a potential $40 billion refueling aircraft contract will be announced after U.S. markets close Friday, Reuters reported today.

“That’s my best bet for now,” Sue Payton, assistant secretary for acquisition, told the news service after a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the Air Force 2009 budget request.

The Air Force passed its tanker-contract recommendation Monday to the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board.

Boeing is competing against a joint venture between Airbus’ European parent, EADS, and Northrop-Grumman for the job of building 179 tankers to replace part of the Air Force’s Eisenhower-era KC-135 fleet.