Predictions state that it will create about 50,000 new jobs that this country could really use right now. But what company will get it? Boeing Co. or Aeronautic Defence and Sapce Company?

WASHINGTON –  After a decade of delays and embarrassing missteps, the Air Force is poised to award one of the biggest contracts in military history — a $35 billion deal to build nearly 200 giant airborne refueling tankers — to either Chicago-based Boeing Co. or European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company.

The decision will be announced at the Pentagon after the financial markets close on Thursday and it is certain to set off celebrations in the states where the tanker will be manufactured.

If Boeing wins, production would occur in Everett, Wash., Wichita, Kan., and several other states. If EADS wins, the tanker would be assembled in Mobile, Ala., at a long-shuttered military base. The two companies say either way, some 50,000 jobs would be created in a recession-weary nation.

The losing states — and their lawmakers — will weigh any challenge to the decision.

Replacing the 1950s-era KC-135 planes — the equivalent of a flying gas station — is crucial for the military. Pilots who weren't even born when the last aircraft was delivered in 1965 are operating air tankers that the Pentagon is struggling to keep in flying shape.

The refueling tankers allow jet fighters, supply planes and other aircraft to cover long distances, critical with fewer overseas bases and operations far from the United States in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.