EU to set up online market for surplus military equipment

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Cash-strapped European Union countries, trying to get the most value out of shrinking defense budgets, will soon be able to sell or swap surplus tanks or fighter jets on a new eBay-style electronic marketplace.

BRUSSELS -- Cash-strapped European Union countries, trying to get the most value out of shrinking defense budgets, will soon be able to sell or swap surplus tanks or fighter jets on a new eBay-style electronic marketplace.

Website eQuip will provide an online shop window for existing military hardware and in future perhaps for equipment from NATO-led operations in Afghanistan, said an official who briefed journalists on condition of anonymity.

"We expect that there will be some surplus equipment that will be brought back (from Afghanistan) and which might then be made available through eQuip," the official said.

Up to 200,000 vehicles and military equipment containers are being withdrawn over the next few years.

The official said eQuip would be operational within months.

Western European governments have been forced already to sell military equipment due to defense cuts.

Britain agreed a $180 million deal in 2011 to sell 72 retired Harrier aircraft to the U.S. Marine Corps for use as spare parts while Romania was recently reported to be planning to buy second-hand F-16 fighter jets from Portugal.

EU defense ministers meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss other ways to drive forward multinational defense cooperation in an effort to cut costs.

They are expected to adopt a new code of conduct which will make sharing defense capabilities between various EU nations a central plank of European military planning.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft)