Aerospace factories in the West Midlands stand to reap rich rewards after EADS - the parent company of Airbus - stunned arch rival Boeing by winning a $35 billion (£18 billion) contract to supply new tanker aircraft to the United States Air Force.
The USAF needs to buy 179 tanker aircraft over the next 15 years to replace its aging KC-135 tankers, on average 47 years old, which were built by Boeing.
Chicago-based Boeing has long been regarded as favourite to win the contract - but instead it has gone to a partnership set up between EADS and US firm Northrop Grumman.
Airbus will make the wings for the newly named KC-45A tankers, essentially heavily modified versions of the A330 commercial airliner, at its plants in Broughton, north Wales, and in Filton, Bristol. EADS said the work would be worth around $6 billion, helping to secure some 9,000 jobs.
Redditch-based group GKN has been selected by Airbus as the preferred partner for the acquisition of the wing structures plant at Filton in the UK. It is expected to conclude the transaction, which will give it a quarter of the site, by mid-2008. GKN is already a supplier for the A330 plane, plus its A320, A340 and A380 stablemates.
Other potential big winners in the UK aviation industry include Cobham, the engineering group which pioneered in-flight refuelling, and the British arm of GE Aerospace - formerly Smiths Aerospace - which has large plants in Cheltenham and Wolverhampton.
The KC-45A is a derivative of the multi-role tanker which has already been selected by the UK, Australia and United Arab Emirates.
Equipped with a centreline flying boom - plus two underwing hose and drogue pod systems - is will be able to refuel multiple aircraft simultaneously.
The initial contract for the KC-45A covers four test aircraft for $1.5 billion. With plans to buy 175 more planes, it would be worth $35 billion overall, the USAF said in a statement. However, analysts believe the final order could be even larger. The USAS currently has about 500 aircraft in it fleet, suggesting a total contract value in the region of $100 billion.
Apart from the UK, parts for the A330 are built mainly in France, German and Spain, then transported to Toulouse in South-west France for assembly. However, the new US tanker will be assembled at a new plant in Mobile, Alabama. It will eventually employ around 25,000 workers.
EADS' chief executive, Louis Gallois, insisted that the deal had been won on quality, not simply by slashing prices.
"This is a very, very good piece of news," he said. "I think it is an exceptional success for us and demonstrates confidence in our policy of being present on the American market and showing what we can provide in the way of quality."
General Arthur Lichte, commander of the Air Force's Air Mobility Command, also said the Northrop-EADS plane offered many advantages over Boeing's proposed 767-based tanker.
"More passengers, more cargo, more fuel to offload, more patients that we can carry, more availability, more flexibility and more dependability," he said.
However, the decision could still be challenged by Boeing, or its backers in the US Congress.