Europe's defence ministers confirmed after a meeting yesterday at Farnborough that they will order 225 Airbus A400Ms, valued at around $17.5 billion, when the airlifter project gets the formal go-ahead early in 2001.The total is slightly more than expected a figure of 218 had been suggested and is considerably in excess of the 155 needed to ensure programme viability.

The figures are:

Germany 73; France 50; Spain 27; Turkey 26; UK 25; Italy 16; Belgium 7; and Luxembourg 1.

Speaking at the signing ceremony and with his European colleagues from all the countries except Luxembourg looking on, UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said: "This commitment from our partners today allows the launch of this project and underlines our shared commitment to enhancing Europe's defence capability. "It is a major opportunity for our industry. There are tough commercial negotiations ahead, not least on price, but we hope to conclude these satisfactorily for the formal contract with Airbus Military Company to be signed early next year."

Source: Flight Daily News