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U.S. Senate Hearing on Air Force Tankers Set for January 27

The Senate Armed Services Committee will convene a hearing Jan. 27 to examine the inadvertent release of data from the bids of Boeing Co. and European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. on the U.S. Air Force’s new aerial tanker.

Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman, promised the hearing based on concerns from Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, a Democrat like Levin, that the release may have tainted the competition.

The Air Force disclosed last Nov. 19 that it mistakenly provided Chicago-based Boeing and EADS with “a limited amount” of data on each other’s offer. The bids are now under government review. The mistake was termed a “clerical error” by the Air Force.

The Pentagon agreed with the Air Force’s initial assessment that the sharing of some of the rivals’ information won’t affect the selection of a winner for the new refueling aircraft, Colonel David Lapan, a spokesman, said Nov. 22 in an interview.

“The department does believe that it was a ‘clerical’ error,” Lapan said. “We are certainly concerned with it, and the Air Force is looking into it, but we don’t believe there will be a significant impact.”

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn and Undersecretary for Acquisition Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, have been briefed on the mistake, Lapan said.

The winner of the tanker competition may be announced this month to replace 179 of a fleet of more than 500 KC-135 refueling aircraft, which the company developed in the 1950s along with the Boeing 707 passenger airliner. The military depends on the tankers to extend the range of combat and transport planes.

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