Germany floats plan to buy new Lockheed transport planes – Metro US

Germany floats plan to buy new Lockheed transport planes

Germany floats plan to buy new Lockheed transport planes
By Sabine Siebold and Andrea Shalal

By Sabine Siebold and Andrea Shalal

BERLIN (Reuters) – 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 purchase.

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.

(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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