BERLIN Oct 5 Germany is looking at buying 4-6
new Lockheed Martin C-130J military troop transport
planes and operating them jointly with France, placing a further
dent in plans for a fully European airlift capability following
the delayed A400M.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her French
counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, signed an agreement in Paris
late on Tuesday to study a joint tactical airlift pool of C-130J
aircraft, the German defence ministry said.
The latest initiative in Franco-German defence co-operation
comes against the backdrop of tough negotiations with Airbus
Military over delays to the A400M, as well as growing
European concerns over a possible shift in UK defence priorities
away from its continental partners following the Brexit vote.
France is already in the process of buying four C-130J
aircraft from Lockheed partly to allow refuelling of helicopters
used by its special forces, a feature originally meant to be
supplied by the A400M but abandoned for technical reasons.
"We expect considerable synergies from such a move," Markus
Grubel, parliamentary state secretary in the German defence
ministry, told key lawmakers in a letter about the C-130J
There has been speculation that Germany could buy used
C-130J aircraft from Britain to help meet near-term needs.
But a German defence ministry source said Berlin would buy
up to six new aircraft directly from the United States.
Such a deal could be worth close to half a billion euros,
based on the 330 million euros ($370 million) budgeted by France
for its earlier purchase of four C-130Js.
"Current plans call for the procurement of new aircraft.
There are no specific timelines for that purchase," a defence
ministry source said.
The German-French agreement foresees the new joint tactical
airlift capability being in operation by 2021, but it is not
certain Germany will have all its C-130Js by then.
Von der Leyen told Reuters last week that Germany would make
a decision soon on acquiring C-130s to cover what Berlin views
as a gap in capabilities once the elderly Transall leaves
service in 2021.
Germany is part of a European group of seven European NATO
nations that funded the 20-billion-euro development by Airbus
of the A400M.
Lockheed was originally a partner at an early stage of the
A400M project, which was eventually billed as a European
alternative to the smaller C-130 and the larger Boeing C-17.
Airbus declined to comment on Germany's C-130 proposals.
($1 = 0.8921 euros)
(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Elaine