CANBERRA, Australia (AP) _ Boeing Co. has been chosen to supply seven new early warning and control aircraft to the Australian air force in a deal worth more than $1.3 billion, the government announced Wednesday.

Defense Minister John Moore said Seattle-based Boeing had been chosen as preferred provider from a panel of three potential suppliers.

The others were Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Systems Co.

Moore said contract negotiations would now begin, with the aim of signing the final contract early next year and the first of the aircraft being delivered in 2004-05.

Moore said Boeing was selected ``after a thorough evaluation across a range of areas including operational capability, Australian industry involvement, cost and risk.''

He said Boeing and its radar supplier Northrop Grumman had extensive experience in the construction of early warning planes.