Talks to amend the Airbus A400M development and production contract will drag on into the autumn as the moratorium on funding imposed by the European partner nations continues.
Germany is negotiating to reduce the number of A400M airlifters that it will receive from Airbus Military. Like the UK, it wants to take a cut in fleet size as its contribution to the €2 billion of additional A400M funding that was agreed in principle by the seven European customer nations last March.
EADS will receive an extra €2 billion to continue the A400M program, as well as a loan of €1.5 billion to be repaid as a levy on future exports of the airlifter. An ”understanding” with the eight European partner nations also includes forgiveness of all late delivery penalties to date, and an acceleration of pre-delivery payments.
Airbus chief executive officer Tom Enders refused all comment on the A400M airlifter here yesterday as talks to continue the troubled project reached a critical stage in Europe. Defense procurement ministers from the eight European customer nations are to meet again today for the third time in as many weeks to discuss their negotiating position.
Before the long-delayed first flight of the A400M, the new airlifter’s TP400 turboprop was flown 18 times on a C-130 flight test bed (FTB) modified and flown by Marshall Aerospace. This was a challenging task, since the TP400 produces 2.5 times the thrust of a C-130’s standard T56 engine and weighs twice as much.
A deal to rescue the troubled Airbus A400M airlifter has been put together. Defense ministers from the European partner nations will meet on Wednesday to approve a reduction in their orders, originally set at 180 aircraft. No more money will be made available to EADS-Airbus, beyond the €20 billion that was agreed to in 2003 to cover the development and production.
Boeing announced this month that India had formally expressed interest in acquiring 10 C-17 military transports. The company said the Indian air force wanted to “replace and augment” its fleet of Russian-made Il-76 and An-32 airlifters. The news followed closely on a confirmation that the U.A.E. had signed for six C-17s, as expected. Four will be delivered in 2011 and two in 2012.
At a dramatic new year press conference held beneath the second A400M in the final assembly building in Seville, Spain, the chief executive officers of EADS and Airbus declared that they would stop funding the program at the end of this month.
The first Airbus Military A400M military airlifter (MSN 1) made its first flight today, taking off at 10:15 a.m. local time (0915 UTC) from Seville, Spain, for a three-hour, 47-minute flight, according to EADS. The six-person crew, led by Edward Strongman, Airbus chief test pilot, military, said the aircraft and its four Europrop International TP400D turboprop engines performed as expected.
There was good news and bad news for Europe’s troubled airlifter last week. Airbus Military said the first A400M is now in the hands of the flight-test team and on course for a first flight by the end of the year. And the program gained a strong endorsement from the UK Royal Air Force commander. But South Africa canceled its order for eight aircraft and claimed a refund of $391 million already handed over.