As negotiations to secure a future for Europe’s troubled A400M airlifter continue, the UK government is taking the hardest line with Airbus Military, and moving quickly to secure alternative solutions. At the meeting of defense ministers in Seville, Spain, last month, the UK vetoed a Franco-German proposal to delay a final decision until December.
Airbus has presented “a realistic development and production schedule” to the A400M partner nations, CEO Tom Enders said here in Paris on Tuesday. Ahead of next week’s meeting in Seville with the defense ministers, Airbus won’t answer detailed questions about the plan in public. But they seem to have convinced one customer already: French defense minister Herve Morin said here yesterday that he could see “light at the end of the tunnel.”
Lockheed Martin can deliver C-130J military transports to the nations affected by the A400M debacle within 36 months, on a sale or lease basis. Longer-term, LM continues to study an “Extra Large” version of the C-130 that could offer the same fuselage cross section as the European airlifter.
Defense ministers from the seven A400M partner nations are heading for Seville next week for a crucial meeting with the EADS and Airbus leadership. French Defense Minister Herve Morin urged the airframer to be “transparent and precise” about the extent of delays to the troubled European airlifter.
Six years ago, the team from Airbus Military promoting the A400M came to the Paris Air Show full of confidence and good intentions. Germany had just confirmed its order for 60, finally launching the program after years of negotiations. Italy and Portugal dropped out, leaving a total requirement of 180 aircraft for six European countries (seven, if you count Luxembourg taking one aircraft).
Dramatically expanding the country’s airlift capabilities, the United Arab Emirates plans to add Boeing C-17s and Lockheed Martin C-130Js. The country is purchasing four C-17 Globemaster IIIs for AED4.3 billion ($1.17 billion), and 12 C-130Js for AED5.9 billion ($1.6 billion). Financial management of the purchases has been assigned to Al Waha Capital, and deliveries are scheduled for 2012 and 2013.
EADS Airbus has proposed major revisions to its contract with seven European nations for the A400M airlifter, including a delay in the first deliveries until 2012. The company still has no idea when the first flight might take place, although the C-130 testbed for the A400M’s huge TP400 turboprop engines did finally get off the ground last month.
Lockheed Martin announced on October 7 a $393.6 million contract to supply four C-130J-30 “stretched” Hercules military transports to the Qatar Emiri Air Force beginning in 2011. This comes a few months after the Qataris signed a deal to acquire from Boeing two C-17s, which will be delivered next summer. Currently the QEAF has no tactical/strategic airlift capability, so the new purchases signal a dramatic change in air force doctrine.
Continuing production of the C-17 Globemaster airlifter into the next decade now seems assured. Boeing officials are quietly confident that the U.S. Congress will add another 15 of these airplanes to the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, following similar action for FY09. The company also expects “at least 15 more international orders,” according to Dave Bowman, until recently Boeing’s v-p and general manager for mobility systems.
Further delay to the Airbus A400M military transport now seems inevitable. “There’s an obvious risk of slippage,” Carlos Suarez, head of EADS Military Transport Aircraft (MTA), said here at Farnborough. The first A400M ceremonially rolled out from the brand-new final assembly line building at Seville, Spain, on June 26.