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Business News

300 jobs at risk as MoD air tanker work moved to Spain


More than 300 jobs are facing the axe after it emerged work on air tanker refuelling planes for the Ministry of Defence will be moved to Spain.

The consortium behind the Voyager planes is to shift the final stages of production for the remaining 10 aircraft from Bournemouth to Getafe near Madrid.

Some 240 staff employed by Cobham, which is part of the consortium, and 80 contractors will continue to work on two planes until early next year.

A spokesman for Cobham said it is possible that some of the workers could move to Spain or to Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to service the aircraft.

The AirTanker consortium, which comprises EADS, Cobham, Rolls-Royce, Babcock and France's Thales, has a £10.5 billion deal to lease 14 modified Airbus A330 aircraft to the MoD as it looks to replace its ageing fleet.

The first two were converted in Spain by Airbus Military, the aircraft's designers, but the following 12 were due to be finished in the UK.

The tankers are 60m (197ft) long and can carry 100,000 litres of fuel, which is then passed on to other planes at a rate of 5,000 litres a minute.

It is understood that, because the aircraft are designed in Spain, it will be quicker and more efficient to convert them there too.

AirTanker faces potential penalties if it is late delivering the planes, with nine due to enter service in 2014.

The work to convert the remaining 10 planes will be carried out by Airbus Military rather than by Cobham Aviation Services.

Shares in Cobham were down 2% today although it said today's announcement will have no material financial impact on the company and there had been no technical issues with the conversion process.

The Voyager contract has been criticised since it was announced in 2008 amid claims that the planes lack the protective gear necessary to act in war zones.

Earlier this year, AirTanker planes experienced leakage problems during in-flight test refuelling of British Tornado jets.