France's defense minister announced here Friday that his country will purchase 14 MRTT aerial refueling tanker aircraft from Spain.
Jean-Yves Le Drian shared the news with reporters after touring the Airbus Military Conversion Center in the Madrid industrial suburb of Getafe and meeting with Spanish counterpart Pedro Morenes.
Airbus A-330 jetliners made in the southern French city of Toulouse are sent to the facility in Getafe for the modifications needed to convert them into Multi Role Tanker Transports.
The French defense chief observed the conversion process, climbed into the cockpit of one MRTT and explored the plane's capabilities in a 3-D simulation.
Morenes and Le Drian discussed details of the European Union's support for a prospective military intervention by West African nations to reclaim control of northern Mali from Islamist militants.
The French official expressed appreciation for Madrid's "political solidarity" on Mali, while also pointing out that strife in the Sahel region of Africa is a question of "security for Spain."
"(W)e're going to restore the sovereignty of Mali and the sovereignty of Mali is the security of Europe," Le Drian said.
He declined to speculate about the nature of Madrid's participation in the French-led EU mission, but the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has indicated a willingness to provide logistics and intelligence support.
Le Drian and Morenes also reviewed their countries' military collaboration in Afghanistan and Lebanon and the intensification of bilateral relations represented by the impending creation of a Franco-Spanish Council of Security and Defense. EFE