A consortium of companies that will go after a $40-billion U.S. Air Force contract to build a fleet of new refueling tankers was named Thursday by Northrop Grumman Corp. and its European partner.


Northrop, along with European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., the parent of jet maker Airbus, said the consortium will include General Electric Co.'s GE Aviation, Honeywell International Inc. and General Dynamics Corp.


In an attempt to stem concern about the military jet being designed, engineered and built overseas, Northrop said that at least 52 percent of the plane would be made in the U.S., including final assembly in Mobile, Ala. According to Bloomberg News estimates, if the Northrop-lead team won the deal, it would create more than 25,000 jobs nationwide.


The Department of Defense said it will announce the winner of the bid later this summer. Chicago-based Boeing Co. also is seeking the contract. Both competitors are proposing to retrofit commercial airframes. The Northrop-Airbus team would use a new Airbus A330, and Boeing an older 767.


Shares in Northrop were up 71 cents to $74.84 in afternoon trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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