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02 May 03. The Air Tanker consortium led by EADS (Paris:EAD.PA – News; XETRA:EAD.DE – News) which is offering Britain new A330 planes for a £13bn ($20.9bn) air-tanker contract said its bid includes the option of used aircraft.

“We are now looking at the options afforded by used aircraft,” Robin Southwell, chief executive of the AirTanker consortium, said. “The number of aircraft may or may not change.” AirTanker includes European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co NV (EADS), France’s Thales (Paris:TCFP.PA – News), Rolls-Royce (London:RR.L – News) and UK engineering firm Cobham Plc (London:COB.L – News).

Comment: this is a big about turn by Southwell and his team and may reflect the gaining acceptance of the Boeing team’s offer with used 767 aircraft. Air Tanker’s primary offering underlined the key feature of the use of the new A300 which although more expensive had considerable long-term advantages. This announcement with the provision of ex-Emirates A300 aircraft may narrow the gap but Southwell may have to rebuild credibility. BATTLESPACE is informed by a source that the A330 may also be too large for the Cobham hanger where the conversion is due to take place.

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