France has come up with the vital Fr8 billion ($1.15 billion) funding for its share of the four-nation NH Industries NH90 helicopter programme after juggling with money set aside for other defence programmes in its year 2000 budget.

The move eliminates concerns that the signature of the industrialisation and initial production contract would not be signed at the Berlin air show in early June.

The French money is split into Fr2.5 billion for industrialisation and the rest for production of 27 machines for the navy, for delivery in 2005/6. Funding for the French army's purchase of 133 NH90s, first deliveries of which are due in 2011, was not covered.

In a last minute change to the contract, Germany has asked for an optional 54 army machines to be included in the production contract, bringing the total number of NH90s covered in the initial contract to 298.

Source: Flight International