The EADS-led AirTanker consortium, which is mired in negotiations to conclude a £13 billion ($24.3 billion) private finance initiative deal to supply the UK Royal Air Force's Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) fleet, has announced VT Group's addition to its corporate structure.

Part of the AirTanker bid team for the last 18 months, VT has taken a 10% stake in the joint venture company by acquiring 5% holdings from both Cobham and Rolls-Royce, which each now hold 20% interests.

Lead partner EADS retains its 40% holding, with Thales responsible for the remaining 10% of shares.

UK-based VT, which has around 75% of its business in providing contractor support services, will initially deliver services at RAF Brize Norton through its VT Aerospace subsidiary.

The company hopes to generate revenues worth £1 billion over the project's 27-year life through its formal involvement in AirTanker.

Discussions continue "on a weekly basis with the customer" to complete negotiations on the FSTA deal, says AirTanker chief executive Robin Southwell. While the process to agree the deal's concession contract and financing arrangements has been under way since early this year, he notes: "Nothing that has happened has changed the planned in-service date" of 2009.

AirTanker sources expect negotiations with the UK Ministry of Defence to conclude later this year, with a contract signature anticipated during 2005.

The company is also continuing discussions with "a number of major international airlines" with regard to the joint use of Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Southwell declines to name these.


Source: Flight International