The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Boeing Co. wants the Air Force to immediately explain why it awarded a $35 billion contract to rival European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. and its partner, Northrop Grumman Corp.

The contract was for supplying air-to-air refueling tankers to the Air Force, which Boeing has been doing for nearly 50 years.

By awarding the contract to Europe-based EADS and Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman, the Air Force has touched off a furor in Congress, provoking questions about why a foreign company would receive such a highstakes deal. The response has been strongest from lawmakers whose states stood to gain jobs had Boeing won the deal.

The contract to build up to 179 tankers is the first of three Air Force awards worth as much as $100 billion to replace its entire refueling tanker fleet over the next 30 years.