European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has ended the week with around $17 billion worth of sales, beating out its fiercest rival, Boeing, for a $14 billion Delta Airlines contract in the process. On Thursday, one day after the Delta order was announced, the French minister of defense announced a $3 billion deal to buy 12 Airbus A330 multirole tanker and transport aircraft for its military.
The defense deal, which happens to mark 50 years of the French Air Force's nuclear wing, will see the first aircraft arrive in 2018, the second in 2019 and then two per year after that until the order is complete. The aircraft will replace the Boeing C-135FR tankers that France has been using since the 1960s.
The deal includes five years’ worth of development, support, training, spare parts and ground support equipment. It's a breath of fresh air for the military tanker version of the A330, whose main role is the in-flight refueling of other aircraft to extend their range. The European plane had prevailed over Boeing in a competition in 2008 for 179 tankers for the U.S. Air Force, but that order was invalidated and then reassigned to Boeing after the American company protested, alleging irregularities. A rematch was then won by Boeing in 2011.
The A330 tanker-transport version, known as the A330 MRTT , is already in service with the air forces of Great Britain, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
In the Delta deal, Airbus sold 25 of the advanced, stretched version of the A330, the A330-900, as well as 25 of the A350-900. Boeing was offering its 787 Dreamliner. That deal also nets Rolls-Royce $5 billion as the engine manufacturer. This comes at a pivotal time for the company as its share price was suffering from reductions in military orders over the past year.
"When the most successful U.S. airline today ... says 'yes, we want 50 more of your wide body planes,' you can't debate the fact that it is a massive endorsement of your product line," John Leahy, Airbus chief operating officer, said of the Delta order.
The deal hinged on quick delivery, and Airbus promised that it would begin delivering as early as 2019, ahead of what Boeing could offer with its 787 Dreamliner.