As my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces announced on 6 June 2007, we have decided to proceed with a private finance initiative deal with AirTanker Limited to meet the future strategic tanker aircraft requirement. We aim to finalise the financial and contractual arrangements as soon as possible.
The VC10 aircraft that are going to be replaced were purchased second hand in the 1980s. No other airline or air force flies them. They need urgent repair, and one RAF source said that they are held together with rubber bands and sticky tape. Is that not another example of the Government doing too little, too late for the brave men and women of our armed forces?
The FSTA was designed to enter service in such a way that it meets the out-of-service dates for both the VC10 and the TriStar fleets. They are inextricably linked, and always have been. The calendar age of an aircraft is not an indicator of its operational utility or its remaining service life. Indeed, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman flies on aircraft that are of a considerable age in the fleets of many air carriers around the world.