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Blair lobbies Bush on fighter engine deal

British PM has aggressively lobbied US President to take up a 2.4-billion-dollar Rolls-Royce fighter engine contract, a report said.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2006 19:31 IST

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has aggressively lobbied US President George W. Bush to take up a 2.4-billion-dollar Rolls-Royce fighter engine contract, a media report said today.

The British aerospace giant could lose hundreds of millions of dollars if Bush does not overturn the Pentagon's decision to drop the programme, the Financial Times newspaper said.

Blair has raised the issue in a letter and a video conference, pressing Bush to keep faith with the Rolls-Royce and General Electric deal to develop a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the world's biggest military programme, the FT said.

"The prime minister was very clear and very forceful," an unnamed British government official told the newspaper. "This is obviously important to Rolls-Royce. But as a matter of policy, we also want to promote as much co-operation as possible between the US and our defence industry."

In August 2005, General Electric and Rolls-Royce announced they won the contract to develop and manufacture an engine for the JSF, one of the US military's most high-profile projects.

The F136 engine will be used for the F-35 JSF, a stealth aircraft designed to replace the AV-8B Harrier, A-10, F-16, F/A-18 Hornet and Britain's Harrier GR7 and Sea Harrier.

British Defence Secretary John Reid met his US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld in Washington in November amid reports that the Pentagon was preparing for a possible 32-billion-dollar trim in defence spending over the next five years that could cut into major weapons programs like the JSF.

First Published: Jan 12, 2006 19:31 IST