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Germany eyes future spending of one billion euros on new tanker fleet

An Airbus signage is pictured at the new Airbus Asia Training Centre in Singapore April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German military could spend up to 1 billion euros in coming years for use of new Airbus AIR.PA A330 MRTT tanker planes to be bought as part of a new European multinational fleet, according to a German budget document.

In a project initiated by the European Defence Agency, the new refueling aircraft will be bought by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency and be stationed at Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands for pooling and sharing.

The German parliament is expected to approve this week the 2017 federal budget, which includes an initial 2.5 million euros for potential “membership dues” for Germany’s participation in the new Multinational MRTT Fleet.

A report sent to parliament with the overall budget plan said Germany could spend around 1 billion euros on the program, which will replace its current fleet of four ageing A310 tankers. It gave no timetable for the expenditures.

The cost of the new tanker fleet, which will also offer medical evacuation capabilities, will be divided among members according to flight hours. Germany estimates it will need 4,500 flight hours per year, about 51 percent of the 8,800 planned for the total fleet, according to the document.

The plan must still be approved by the German parliament, something Berlin wants to see before September 2017 national elections.

The Netherlands and Luxembourg have already signed an agreement initiating the program. Norway and Belgium are considering joining in, with decisions due by Jan. 31 2018 at the latest.

Before it joins, Berlin is insisting on assured access to the planes and creation of a forward operating base for the new tankers at the Cologne-Bonn airport, as well as representation in the leadership of the new consortium.

Editing by Andrew Roche

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