The Canadian Air Force has decided to withdraw from a key Nato air surveillance programme as part of cost-cutting measures, Agence France Presse has reported an official as saying.

The decision to pull out of the programme is to cut costs as part of the Canadian Government’s efforts to eliminate a C$36.2bn budget deficit.

The withdrawal from the airborne warning and control system (AWACS) programme follows the decision to extend Nato participation in the Libya mission until September.

The planes are currently being staffed by 2,900 air crew and support staff from 17 Nato nations, of which, 100 are Canadian air crew.

The AWACS is extensively used by the alliance in Afghanistan and Libya to protect air space and guide fighter jets to their targets.