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Germany may keep more of its A400 military transporters -report

Reuters

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany is in talks with several countries, including the Czech Republic and Switzerland, about jointly operating a large number of the 13 Airbus A400M military transport planes it had planned to sell, a German newspaper reported.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported in Tuesday editions that the plan would allow the German air force to maintain access to a large number of the transport planes.

A ministry spokeswoman declined comment.

Airbus also declined comment, but a spokesman said the report did not indicate a change in the total number of planes that Germany expected to buy.

Germany initially planned to buy 60 of the aircraft, but later lowered the number to 53. In 2011, the German parliament then approved a plan under which 13 of those aircraft would be sold to other countries to save money.

But sources familiar with the program said a military review had indicated greater requirements for transport planes.

The European multinational A400M program is years behind schedule, with Germany's share of the costs having risen to 9.6 billion euros ($10.2 billion) from an initial estimate of 8.1 billion, the ministry reported in December. [nL5N1E85DA]

Sueddeutsche Zeitung said the arrangements under discussion called for the A400M transports to be based in Germany, with other countries being able to use them as needed, but Germany being responsible for training, maintenance and operations.

Such pooling and sharing agreements have been strongly encouraged by NATO and the European Union, which is seeking to strengthen its security and cooperation among member countries.

The newspaper said it was unclear what the change in the ministry's plans would cost, since it would depend on how many aircraft were ultimately sold to other countries, and how many were put into joint operating agreements.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal)

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