The EADS-led AirTanker consortium - which also includes Derby-based Rolls-Royce - has been named as the preferred bidder for the £13 billion contract to supply refuelling aircraft for the RAF, writes Steve Pain.
The decision, announced by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, means AirTanker can begin a search for some £2.5 billion in capital needed to fund the programme, the MoD's biggest PFI project.
The UK tentatively selected AirTanker in January last year, but working out details of the project, which will secure some 7,500 jobs, has proved time consuming. A final deal is not expected before 2006, allowing the consortium to supply refuelling planes for the Royal Air Force toward the end of the decade.
Thales, another member of the winning consortium, said its revenues from the Air-Tanker programme would be £800 million to £1 billion, while Rolls-Royce estimated revenues of £700 million.
The consortium will own a fleet of 15 to 20 Airbus A330-200 planes fitted with pods for refuelling aircraft in midflight. Most of the planes will be bought new from Airbus, while some are expected to be used planes.
AirTanker will maintain the fleet and make it available for use by the RAF for 27 years while leasing out aircraft to airlines when not required by the military for tanking or troop transport.
EADS beat Boeing for an order from Australia, following the UK ' s initial announcement and now has its eyes on the far larger US market, where more than 500 ageing tankers may need replacing in the next decade.