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20 July 04. EADS welcomes VT Group as full shareholders in AirTanker, the consortium currently in exclusive negotiations with the UK Ministry of Defence to provide air refuelling and air transport services to the RAF. EADS is the largest shareholder in the consortium with a 40 percent holding. Other shareholders are Rolls-Royce, Cobham (both with 20 percent), Thales and VT (both with 10 percent).

Philippe Camus and Rainer Hertrich, CEO’s of AirTanker shareholder EADS, said: “EADS is delighted to welcome VT formally into the AirTanker consortium. VT’s decision to form a deeper relationship with AirTanker and to invest in the project re-inforces the commitment of all AirTanker’s shareholders to conclude a PFI contract that meets the MoD’s requirements.”

AirTanker is offering a fleet of Airbus A330-200 aircraft each powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines to meet the UK FSTA requirement. 50% of the basic aircraft and 100% of its conversion work will be carried out in the UK.

The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) programme is a 27-year MoD PFI contract to provide air refuelling and air transport services to the RAF. It will replace the RAF’s current fleet of 19 VC 10s and 9 Tristar aircraft. The aircraft will be owned and supported by AirTanker while the service will be staffed by service personnel and under the operational control of the RAF.

AirTanker supremo Robin Southwell heaped praise on the UK DPA’s efforts to achieve ‘value for money’ for its taxpayers. “We expect to work the fine details of the contract through the summer with signing as soon as possible. Finding the money and building the facilities are the major hurdles to be overcome.” Virgin Airlines is not the civil charter partner but Southwell confirmed that they were in discussion with a number of airlines.

EADS are not there yet but the willingness of VT to commit to the project may give some comfort to the DPA and move twords final signature.

Shareholdings: EADS 40%, Rolls 20% from 25%, Cobham 20% from 25%, Thales 10%, VT 10%.

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