France signs deal for C-135 tanker upgrade

By Craig Hoyle

Air France Industries has received a €37 million ($48.6 million) contract to perform an avionics upgrade to the French air force's fleet of 14 Boeing C-135 inflight refuelling aircraft.

Awarded by France's DGA procurement agency on 14 January, the deal will replace obsolete equipment as required under International Civil Aviation Organization regulations, the French defence ministry says.

The air force's first modernised tanker should be returned to active use at Istres air base in early 2011, with work on the entire fleet to conclude by 2013. France expects to field a replacement multirole tanker-transport (MRTT) capability from 2015, the defence ministry says, although it has yet to stage a competition for the requirement.

However, EADS's Airbus A330-based MRTT is a likely lead candidate to replace France's 707-based C-135 inventory. The new-generation type is already on order for the air forces of Australia, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the United Arab Emirates.

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