The race to win one of the largest military deals ever awarded kicked off Friday morning, when Department of Defense officials unveiled the arcane criteria they will use to purchase a fleet of airborne tankers from either Boeing Co. or Northrop Grumman Corp. But what was once a sprint has become a marathon slog as the Pentagon attempts for a fourth time to replace its fleet of 415 Eisenhower-era tankers through contracts expected to total more than $100 billion. The process that started in 2001 to modernize the half-century-old planes that function as aerial gas stations has made its mark for controversy, with an ethics scandal that ended with jail terms for Boeing executives and countless skirmishes on Capitol Hill over jobs, patriotism and free trade. Boeing vs. Northrop Grumman: Round 2 of Air Force tanker fight to kick off -- chicagotribune.com First let me start by saying that it's my hope that the Air Force will finally be able to manage to get a Tanker in the air after a failed attempt to lease 100 of them, another failed attempt with the end result being a complete circus in congress and total lack of judgement on the part of DoD. It's my hope that this time around, we can at least appear to take some of the politics out of this decision and let the Air Force decide what aircraft it wishes to fly so that our aviators can get this vital component and long overdue aircraft in the air.