Way to go, Boeing (NYSE: BA)!

It's been two months since Boeing won the KC-X contract and the right to build KC-46A refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force. It's been more than a month since EADS reluctantly agreed that the better (or at least, cheaper) plane had won, and declined to protest the award. There has been plenty of time in which Boeing could have forgotten the decision was ever in doubt, and that it very nearly lost the contract.

Instead, Boeing's showing that it can act classy, too. The company's already operating on razor-thin margins on this deal. It's already on the hook to share revenue with local partners Spirit AeroSystems (NYSE: SPR), Rockwell Collins (NYSE: COL), United Technologies (NYSE: UTX), and Honeywell (NYSE: HON). Nevertheless, Boeing took a step yesterday toward mending fences across the pond, and added a European supplier to the KC-46A team.

As DefenseNews.com reports, Britain's Marshall Aerospace is now in line to build body fuel tanks for the new refueling plane, and to collect $165 million or more in revenue over the next 15 years. Marshall's not alone in sharing the KC-46A loot. In February, Boeing chose Britain's Cobham to supply it with hose and drogue refueling systems -- a potential $1 billion opportunity.

Sure, in the context of a $35 billion project, these contracts are mere pennies in a bucket. But if they help win Boeing friends in Europe, and perhaps influence them to buy more Boeing aircraft (at a time when U.S. defense spending seems destined to decline), these will be pennies well spent.

Commenting on the contract, Marshall Aerospace expressed hope that it could collect much more than $165 million as Boeing begins exporting the KC-46A to foreign militaries. How many such contracts will Boeing win? Add Boeing to your watchlist, and count 'em as they come in.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above, but Spirit AeroSystems Holdings is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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