Air tankers eyed in UK, France cooperation talks

LONDON, Oct 28 (BestGrowthStock) – Britain and France are
discussing Britain’s new fleet of refuelling planes ahead of a
summit expected to herald greater defence cooperation, the
consortium leasing the aircraft said on Thursday.

Britain has signed a deal worth 10.2 billion pounds ($16
billion) over 27 years to lease 14 modified Airbus A330
aircraft, supplied by EADS (EAD.PA: ), to provide the military
with air-to-air refuelling capability.

Asked about reports Britain may share the new planes with
France, an AirTanker spokesman said: “We understand that
discussions are taking place between the UK and France at a
government-to-government level about various defence
capabilities, including the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft.”

“AirTanker is providing advice and support,” he said.

The consortium gave no details but the terms of the lease
would permit Britain to sub-let any of the refuelling aircraft
it does not need to other countries, cutting costs and gaining
a share of the revenue.

Sharing the planes with France could suit both countries as
they try to curb defence spending to tackle big budget
deficits.

Britain is due to start taking delivery of the new planes
next year. British lawmakers have criticised the programme as
poor value for money.

AirTanker is a consortium including European aerospace
group EADS, Rolls-Royce (RR.L: ), Babcock (BAB.L: ), Cobham (COB.L: )
and Thales (TCFP.PA: ).

The leaders of France and Britain meet in London on Tuesday
when they are expected to agree to deeper defence cooperation.

In a sweeping military review published last week, Britain
said it would intensify its defence and security relationship
with France, and that a British aircraft carrier due to come
into service in 2020 would be modified to allow it to host
French combat jets.

In an interview published in a French newspaper this week,
French Defence Minister Herve Morin said cooperation could
include joint deployment, sharing aircraft carriers and sharing
refuelling planes.
(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Dave Zimmerman)

Air tankers eyed in UK, France cooperation talks