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RAF Announces Private Finance Initiative To Replace Aging Fleet

Fundraising Efforts Have Already Commenced

England's Defense Minister Lord Drayson announced Wednesday the government had approved a Private Finance Initiative solution as the most cost-effective way of replacing the Royal Air Force's aging fleet of VC10 and TriStar aircraft, with Airbus A330-200s.

The Ministry of Defense is in the process of tying up contractual loose ends to close the FSTA (Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft) PFI deal with winning bidder AirTanker Ltd., according to the Ministry of Defense.

The company announced Wednesday it has already begun work on raising the nearly $4 billion in necessary capital by putting the word out to the banking community. According to its website, AirTanker is a company "dedicated exclusively to providing FSTA" to the UK MoD.

"FSTA will provide the RAF with a modern air-to-air refueling and strategic air transport capability which is crucial in this era of expeditionary operations. It will replace the RAF's fleet of VC10 and TriStar aircraft. A PFI solution is the best way to provide our Armed Forces with significantly improved capability," Lord Drayson said. "The Ministry of Defense and AirTanker Ltd will now work together to secure financial and contractual close on a PFI deal as quickly as possible."

The FSTA project is designed to modernize the RAF's air transport and air-to-air refueling capability by replacing its existing fleet of decades-old VC-10 and TriStar aircraft. FSTA will be provided through a 27-year PFI contract.

The 14 A330-200s will be owned and supported by AirTanker with the RAF in complete operational control. The first aircraft will enter service in 2011. The balance of the fleet will become available to the RAF over the following five years.

"This announcement represents an enormous step forward in this vital program for the RAF and UK defense. Air-to-air refueling and strategic airlift are fundamental to the UK's expeditionary capability and FSTA is a crucial part of that," said Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, Chief of the Air Staff.

"Although our current fleets of VC10 and Tristar aircraft are doing a superb job, both fleets are coming towards the end of their useful lives. I am, therefore, delighted that this key milestone has been achieved, and I look forward to getting the new aircraft and facilities into service as soon as possible."

FMI: www.airtanker.co.uk, www.mod.uk

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