The UK will continue its commitment to the Airbus Military A400M project, but is likely to cut three aircraft from its planned order for the type, defence secretary Bob Ainsworth has announced.

Confirming that a formal contract amendment will be signed in the coming months by the EADS company and its seven European customers, Ainsworth says a recent agreement will see "Airbus Military deliver at least 22 aircraft" to the Royal Air Force.

This represents a reduction of three against its May 2003 order for 25 A400Ms; part of a European launch order for 180 of the tactical transports.

 A400M lift 1 - CH
© Craig Hoyle/Flight International

Despite the likely order reduction, Ainsworth says he is "greatly encouraged by the progress made on the A400M programme". Under original plans, the UK should have received its first example later this year, but EADS expects deliveries to be the subject of a three-year delay.

In a flurry of pre-election activity, the UK Ministry of Defence has also signed a £120 million ($180 million) contract with BAE Systems to deliver in-service support for the RAF's new Hawk T2 advanced jet trainers, and with Boeing for part of a repeat order for its CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter.

The latter deal will cover the purchase of long-lead activities for the first 10 of a planned 22 F-model Chinooks to be delivered in 2012-13, the MoD says.

Source: Flight International