Paris: France’s defence minister said Friday that Hercules C-130J military transport aircraft could be bought from US firm Lockheed Martin given crippling delays in delivery of rival European hardware.
“We are examining… the purchase or leasing of the C-130J,” Herve Morin said, evoking a series of “gap” measures in the face of years of hold-ups in the 20-billion-euro (27-billion-dollar) European Airbus 400M project.
The minister also said he has ordered work to lengthen the service lifespan of existing French military 10 Transall transport planes, saying they could now “go through to 2018.”
Morin has called a meeting next week in Brussels on the sidelines of a NATO defence ministers gathering so that client countries can conduct a political audit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) programme.
He said it would allow “European will” to take the Airbus plans forward to be tested.
Morin added that ministers would draw conclusions at the end of June, having asked Spain to host talks on the issue in southern Seville, following further talks between EADS and client countries.
The company is currently negotiating with Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey in a bid to save its order book.
Morin said that after another few months of grace, there would be a time “to allow contractual clauses to be re-set.”
Louis Gallois, chief executive at the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, last month told the weekly magazine L’Express that the end of 2009, “give or take a few weeks,” was a realistic target.