A Boeing KC-767 refueling tanker of Italian Air Forces is seen in 2005. (Pierre Verdy / AFP)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — South Korea said Tuesday it is considering offers from plane giants Airbus and Boeing as well as Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to provide air refueling tankers in a deal estimated to be worth $1.38 billion.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said it has accepted the bids from the three companies with a goal to choose a final bidder by the end of November.
The bids involve Airbus’s A330-based Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), Boeing’s B767-based KC-46 and the overhauled B767-300ER made by IAI.
“We will evaluate the proposed three aircraft types beginning early July,” DAPA said in a statement.
It did not elaborate on the number of aircrafts to be purchased but industry sources put the number at four.
Boeing of the United States and Europe’s Airbus are in a global competition to win military contracts for building refueling planes.
Airbus’s MRTT is already in service in Australia, Saudi Arabia, Britain and the United Arab Emirates, according to the IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.
The firm won a $1.4 billion order in March to replace the Singapore air force’s aging air refueling tankers that had previously been made by Boeing.
Boeing in 2011 beat its European rival for an estimated $30 billion contract to replace the US Air Force’s aging fleet of KC-135 tankers with the newer KC-46 aircraft, with the first deliveries expected in 2017.
South Korea’s military procurement needs, especially where the air force is concerned, have overwhelmingly been met by US suppliers in the past — a reflection of their close military alliance.