Fears that Airbus is about to slash the number of its suppliers from 3,000 to 500 in a major cost-cutting drive have been roundly dismissed by the manufacturer.

French prime minister Dominique de Villepin, due to visit the manufacturer's Toulouse headquarters this week, had pledged to defend jobs at both Airbus and its suppliers following media reports that the move was Airbus's attempt to cut annual costs by a reported €350 million ($450 million) as a consequence of costly delays to the A380 programme.

Villepin told the French parliament that "we won't let them fall" and said the French government, which owns 15% of Airbus parent EADS, had already saved 600 jobs at EADS unit Sogerma, which was threatened with closure earlier this year.

Airbus says: "Airbus simply intends to reduce the number of interfaces with the suppliers, meaning that first-tier suppliers will subsequently manage the relationship with other suppliers down the line, hereby streamlining and simplifying the process."

Martin Malvy, president of the Midi-Pyrénées region, underlined the concerns of regional aerospace: "The threat which hangs over the regional economy is global and serious. With 548 businesses and 60,000 jobs, our region is at the forefront."

Source: Flight International