News Editor

Over the weekend the USA and its allies presented a united front on the ’War on Terror’ while behind the scenes both sides are locked in a battle to win a $35bn military aircraft contract.

A decision is expected this month on whether Boeing or EADS/Northrop Grumman will be awarded the contract to supply 179 new refuelling tanker aircraft to the US Air Force (USAF).

The Northrop-Grumman/Airbus consortium won the original contract to replace the KC-135 Stratotanker fleet in March 2008, only for rival bidder Boeing to challenge the USAF decision on the grounds of technical and cost evaluations, conduct of discussions, and ‘source selection decision’.

The challenge was subsequently upheld by the US Government Accountability Office, which is said to have found irregularities in the contracting process.

Airbus and Boeing are no strangers to a bust up. Click here to read Boeing’s background notes on what its sees as unfair subsidies to Airbus.

David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy meet tomorrow at an Anglo-French summit that is expected to see both leaders agreeing to greater defence co-operation including joint military operations and possibly even simulated nuclear tests.

The summit follows the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) which last month scrapped the Ark Royal aircraft carrier, which turns 25 this week and is to receive a visit from the Queen on Friday. Ark Royal is expected to be decommissioned by Christmas this year and not 2014 as planned orignially.

From one anniversary to another and news that tomorrow marks the 10th year of the first residents arriving on the International Space Station (ISS).

ISS, the largest orbiting space capsule ever built, travels at 17,500mph at an altitude of 220 miles above the Earth. As reported in our 29 Oct newsletter, the ISS is set to host Robonaut 2.

Engineers will observe how the 21-stone robot operates once its delivered by Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-133, which is due to launch today at 1640 EDT.

Still in the air, albeit closer to earth, and a return to the eruption from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano which caused so much well-documented disruption. Links to The Engineer’s coverage can be found alongside this article.

Leicester University today hosts a talk by Hazel Rymer, Professor of Environmental Volcanology in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences at The Open University.

According to Leicester University, Rymer pioneered a technique which is now the standard method for gravity monitoring on volcanoes and remains the only way to quantify the sub-surface mass changes that occur before, during and after eruptions.

Her talk ‘Predicting the next Icelandic Ash Eruption’, will look at the recent, relatively minor ash eruption from Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland that caused so much disruption earlier in the year.

Two key issues are said to have emerged from the eruption: that better models for the pathway taken by ash from the erupting volcano towards the UK were needed, plus a better understanding of the shallow ’plumbing system’ of the volcanic area.

These points may be on the agenda on Wednesday when the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee holds an evidence session on ’Scientific advice and evidence in emergencies’, which will focus on volcanic ash.