UK advances talks on Eurofighter, A400M deals

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The UK Ministry of Defence is expected to approve a production deal for its first Tranche 3 Eurofighter Typhoons in the coming weeks, and is continuing discussions with EADS in a bid to resolve a dispute over its delayed Airbus Military A400M transport.

Describing the Typhoon as "an essential capability" for the UK armed forces, minister for defence equipment and support Quentin Davies says: "There have been a series of negotiations in Berlin, and I hope we can make a positive and favourable decision soon."

Eurofighter partner nations Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK in mid-March outlined a plan to sign a so-called Tranche 3A contract for 107 of their remaining 236 production aircraft, on the condition that industry first commit to delivering "significant life cost reductions". Davies declines to comment on the UK's planned order numbers for the deal, or to specify when this should be signed.

 © Geoffrey Lee/Eurofighter

Davies meanwhile told the Royal Aeronautical Society's Aerospace 2009 conference in London on 21 April that the A400M remains "a problem", and that MoD officials will meet lead stakeholder EADS on 22 April to discuss the issue.

"Hopefully we will have a solution before too long," says Davies, without disclosing whether the UK is prepared to provide more money to complete the troubled development. However, the MoD has other "options and discussions" related to solving its emerging air transport shortfall, he adds.

eads
 © EADS

Separately, Davies used the conference to defend the MoD's £3.9 billion ($5 billion) order for two 65,000t Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) vessels for the Royal Navy, after four members of the opposition Conservative Party called for the deal to be cancelled during a debate on 20 April.

"We need to have local airfields for long-range operations," he says. "We need the [aircraft] carriers, to take our airfields with us."

Abandoning the CVF project would also undermine the UK's future purchase of Lockheed Martin's stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, he cautions. "With the carriers come JSF, and if you cancel one you cancel the other."