Peter La Franchi/CANBERRA


The Royal Australian Air Force's in-flight refuelling requirement may become a lead project for the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) proposed by Australia's Department of Defence.

Interest in the deal could bring the RAAF requirement closer to that of the UK Ministry of Defence, which has been trying to draw Australia into a privately funded, two-nation, inflight refuelling programme (Flight International, 28April-4 May). Earlier this year, the UK issued a request for information covering provision of tankers via the PFI.

Australian defence minister John Moore says that key decisions on the adoption of the PFI will be made by the end of this year. A defence committee has been appointed to explore whether the UK private funding model is appropriate for Australia's requirements.

Moore says the air-to-air refuelling requirement and some training and simulation projects are being considered as key targets for the initiative.

The Royal Air Force contract could be awarded by the UK by 2002. The scheme seeks to provide commercially funded in-flight refuelling on demand worldwide.

If the UK proceeds with the PFI tanker project, it would be the largest programme of its type undertaken by the RAF and would take private assets closer to the front line than in any other such projects - which have been mainly in training and support. New tankers could enter service by 2004 if this proves more cost-effective than replacing the ageing BAC VC10s before their planned 2007 retirement date.

Australia's current planning for its project calls for the delivery of an expanded air-to-air refuelling capability from 2004.

Source: Flight International