France to buy Airbus tankers from 2013: air force chief
France will buy the new Airbus A330 MRTT tanker aircraft from 2013, French air force chief General Jean-Paul Palomeros was quoted as saying Saturday by an aviation website.
But he added that the Telemos unmanned drone being developed by France and Britain would not enter service until 2020, Aviation International News (AIN) said.
Palomeros said France's missions during the NATO-led action in Libya had shown the need to replace its fleet of 14 Boeing KC-135 for inflight refuelling.
Paris planned to buy a similar number of Airbus MRTT (multi-role tanker transport) aircraft, beginning with five to seven in 2013 for speedy delivery, he said.
A second batch would also have the role of replacing France's A340 and A310 VIP and transport fleet.
The French defence ministry denied in September that it had fixed on the Airbus, and said that deliveries of a KC-135 replacement were not planned for earlier than 2017.
One option mooted was to lease A330s purchased by Britain under the two countries' 2010 military cooperation agreement.
Regarding the Telemos drone being developed by Britain's BAE Systems from its Mantis prototype in partnership with French Dassault Aviation, "We need to define the operational requirements and develop a clear roadmap," Palomeros said.
"The Mantis is a good platform, but we have real work to do regarding systems and communications."
© 2011 AFP