RAF looks to private sector to provide £6bn for flying tankers

A £6bn contract to supply the RAF with flight refuelling tankers could become the biggest project to be funded under the private finance initiative, it has been revealed. A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said this week that the contract would extend the initiative ‘closer to the front line than ever before,’ and that […]

A £6bn contract to supply the RAF with flight refuelling tankers could become the biggest project to be funded under the private finance initiative, it has been revealed.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said this week that the contract would extend the initiative ‘closer to the front line than ever before,’ and that there were now no ‘no go’ areas.

The RAF has 35 VC10 and Tristar tanker-transport aircraft. Though the Tristars can last to 2011, the VC10s will need replacing from 2007, but they may now be replaced sooner.

‘We are considering our options, which include the design, supply, management, operation and funding of the replacement of our air-to-air refuelling fleet,’ the MoD said. ‘We are keen to investigate the possibility of a PFI solution.’

The MoD will publish a request for information early next year; outline proposals will be sought from six to eight firms in the autumn. The proposals will be whittled down to three or four in autumn 2000, with a contract let as early as 2002.

‘The bottom line is that we would need to be convinced that operational effectiveness would be maintained by the PFI approach,’ the MoD warned.

The possibility of buying brand new aircraft is not being ruled out, though many countries now use converted second-hand airliners as tankers.