Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Three NATO countries intend to join a European program for a new multinational fleet of aerial refueler/transport aircraft.
The countries are Belgium, Norway and Germany, whose ministers of defense signed a Declaration of Intent on Thursday.
"This multinational cooperation through NATO is a clear way for countries to significantly improve their armed forces while ensuring the greatest value for money for their taxpayers," NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller said at the signing ceremony.
Gottemoeller said the initiative will reduce Europe's reliance on the United States for air-to-air refueling capabilities.
The tanker/transport initiative through NATO was started by the Netherlands and Luxembourg last year. A first order for Airbus A330 aircraft has been made.
Additional NATO countries can join the initiative, NATO said, and up to eight aircraft could be procured.
NATO said the procurement program is an example of close cooperation between the alliance and the European Union.