Europe's banks may soon be riding to the rescue of the continent's rapid reaction force, with top executives at Le Bourget suggesting that "creative financial solutions" could be used to bridge the gap in German funding for the A400M airlifter.

European defence ministers are due in Paris today to sign the "final" memorandum of understanding (MOU) for this flagship European programme, increasing the pressure for a deal allowing it to go forward to development in September.

Intense discussions have been under way over the past four days to bring together partner nations Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and Portugal. The indications late last night were that the MOU would indeed be signed today.


Political sources close to UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon are talking up the prospects of the troubled programme, suggesting that "other nations" might join up. Meanwhile German Government sources suggest that defence minister Rudolf Scharping will reduce his country's order to 51 aircraft plus 22 options in a bid to save money.

"I have no objection to tailoring financial solutions to meet the requirements of the customer," says BAE Systems chief executive John Weston. "There are some very efficient financial mechanisms to make these things work."

Source: Flight Daily News