With the delay to the Airbus A400M in mind, as well as tight defense budgets, BAE Systems Regional Aircraft’s Asset Management unit is marketing surplus British Aerospace 146-200 and -300 airliners to military customers as low-cost tactical transports under the model name BAe 146M. BAE owns 47 of the four-engine, high-wing jets, many of which are now coming off lease as airlines replace them with new regional jets.
Airbus Military is increasingly confident about the technical progress of the A400M airlifter, but has refused to comment on the difficult, ongoing negotiations with the European launch nations over cost and timescale.
Anxious to demonstrate progress toward a first flight, Airbus Military will hold another technical press briefing on the troubled A400M airlifter in Spain next week. Ahead of the meeting, the company told AIN that Europrop had delivered Fadec software for the TP400 engines, so that system integration tests could proceed on the so-called “iron bird” test rig in Toulouse, France.
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.