A European consortium including UK aerospace giants Rolls-Royce and Cobham was yesterday named as the preferred bidder for a £13bn order to refuel RAF planes.
AirTanker pipped Boeing, its US rival, for the 27-year contract, which it said would safeguard about 7,500 UK jobs.
The Ministry of Defence tentatively selected AirTanker in January last year, but problems working out the details led to speculation the deal would fail.
Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, said: "I applaud the positive spirit in which industry has engaged during these important negotiations over the past 12 months, and I am sure they will approach the final detailed negotiations with the same energy and commitment."
AirTanker has five shareholders - EADS, the parent of Airbus; Cobham; Rolls-Royce; the Southampton-based VT Group; and the UK arm of French defence giant, Thales.
Allan Cook, the chief executive of Cobham, said it would create more than 100 jobs at sites in Bournemouth and Wimborne, Dorset.
VT Group estimated its share of the programme would be worth more than £1bn, while similar revenues were expected by Thales UK.Reuse content