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Britain signs deal for 14 new Airbus A330 supply

Britain’s Defense Ministry announced on Thursday that it had signed a deal for a consortium of aerospace firms led by Airbus parent EADS to supply a fleet of 14 new Airbus A330 aircraft to the Royal Air Force (RAF).

In a statement, the ministry said the deal, which coincides with a state visit to Britain by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, were worth £13 billion ($26 billion) over 27 years, and would create up to 600 jobs in Britain and safeguard up to 3,000 others. “This deal represents great news for the Royal Air Force and great news for British industry and jobs,” Minister for Defense Equipment and Support Ann Taylor said in the statement.

Earlier on Thursday, the head of EADS, Europe’s biggest aerospace group, anticipated the announcement, hailing it as another victory over rival Boeing, weeks after a dramatic win for EADS in a bid to supply the Pentagon with similar jets. However EADS, reeling from a weak dollar, which hands a competitive edge to Boeing in the civil airliner market, also suffered a blow as talks to outsource some of its own airplane production facilities to a German aerospace firm collapsed.

The converted A330 tanker aircraft, whose wing pods refuel twice as fast as a Formula One pit stop, will be owned by the AirTanker consortium, although they will fly in RAF colors. They will come into service from 2011. The AirTanker consortium led by EADS also includes Britain’s Cobham, Rolls-Royce and VT Group, as well as France’s Thales. (