EADS North American expects the US Air Force $35bn tanker aircraft deal to be awarded next month, the company’s chief executive Sean O’Keefe has said.

The final offer is expected to be submitted later this month, with the contract awarded next month.

The contract to supply 179 new refuelling tanker aircraft to the US Air Force has been delayed following a series of protests and is now up for tender for the third time.

EADS has proposed a tanker based on its Airbus A330 aircraft, while other bidder Boeing has put forward one based on its 767 aircraft.

The losing bidder may choose to protest the award and the possibility of the US Air Force splitting the contract between the two bidders has been raised, as the US Navy did recently for the littoral combat ship.

O’Keefe, however, expects the contract to be awarded to one bidder.