UPDATE 1-Spain eyes A400M exports to ease budget
* Spain to offer 13 out of 27 A400M planes for export
* France ponders military transporter needs after 2019
PARIS/MADRID, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Spain has moved to halve its planned deployment of Airbus A400M military airlifters by offering the rest for export, casting a fresh shadow over Europe's largest defence project even as France receives the first of the aircraft, defence sources said.
The move is the latest sign of pressure on crisis-hit European nations that bought the long-awaited troop carrier, which itself had to be rescued because of a cost blowout blamed on technical, management and political errors.
After a four-year delay in deliveries, the first A400M flew to its base in Orleans, south of Paris, on Friday.
The aircraft was designed to meet a looming shortfall in military transport capacity among seven European NATO nations: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.
But the 20 billion euro ($26 billion) project went more than 5 billion over budget, forcing buyers to agree in 2010 to a 10 percent price hike and extra cash to be repaid from future exports.
After reviewing its needs, Spain has reduced its requirement to 14 aircraft instead of 27, a defence ministry official said.
It has told Airbus Military that the 13 remaining A400M aircraft it has ordered would be available for export. European buyers have ordered a total of 170 A400Ms, reduced from 180.
Although the 2010 rescue package prevents buyers from cancelling further orders outright, the largest customer, Germany, is expected to release 13 of its 53 aircraft for export as a condition of parliamentary approval for the purchase.
Others including France are studying whether they can do the same, the sources said, but doing so raises thorny issues over export royalties and would require all partners to agree.
Airbus Military is seen as keen to avoid a premature stampede towards export markets as it seeks to keep factories running to meet export demand after securing domestic production.
A spokeswoman for the Madrid-based manufacturer said "nothing has changed with regards to the agreements".
France unveiled a six-year defence spending plan on Friday that includes 15 A400M aircraft between 2014 and 2019. It has ordered a total of 50 of the airlifters.
Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France would still need 50 military transporters as planned in 2025, but left the door open to keeping some older planes longer than expected.
"I haven't yet decided what will happen after 2019. The number of A400M aircraft within the total requirement has not yet been fixed," he told a news conference on his budget.
The Spanish official said no changes would be made until "there's an agreement with all of the partners".
Spain's economy has teetered in and out of recession since 2008, and while financing conditions have improved since it moved away from the brink of a full European bailout, it remains under pressure to cut public spending and a big budget deficit.