WASHINGTON (AP) - One of the most heated contract disputes in Pentagon history may be coming to a close. The Defense Department is releasing its final request for bids to replace the Eisenhower-era fleet of 179 in-flight refueling tankers. Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co. are competing for the $35 billion job. Northrop won in February 2008. But Boeing successfully protested after congressional investigators found the Air Force failed to evaluate both proposals on the same merits. Lawmakers who support Northrop aren't sounding optimistic after attending a briefing with Pentagon leaders on Wednesday. Northrop has threatened to pull out if the Pentagon doesn't make substantial changes in the contract specifications.
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