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.
Powering the A400M was always going to be a challenge, requiring the development of the Western world’s biggest turboprop, the 11,000-shp TP400-D6, and integrating a host of highly complex systems and associated software. “The complexity of the integration task on the TP400 has been bigger than it was for the Airbus A380,” said Nick Durham, president of Europrop International (EPI).
In an effort to expand its product line’s international customer base, Antonov is actively pursuing more Western participation in its An-148 regional jet. While 13 Western vendors contribute to Antonov’s newest design, its heavy dependence on Russian partners has hurt the Ukrainian company’s ability to market the airplane outside its traditional sphere of influence.
The Airbus A400M military airlifter will be ceremonially rolled out on June 26, but the plan to make a first flight by “the end of the summer” seems overly optimistic, unless rapid progress can be made with the TP400 engine testbed, which has not yet flown. About 50 hours are scheduled for this modified C-130, carrying one of the four big turboprops that will power the A400M.
The first Airbus A400M airlifter is set to be rolled out from the final assembly line at Seville, Spain, in June, but it won’t make its first flight until at least September. The program is now running more than six months late due to developmental delays with the large TP400 turboprop engines. The first flight of a TP400 on a C-130 testbed at Marshall Aerospace’s Cambridge, UK airfield has been delayed again until next month.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicholas Sarkozy reached some significant–though little noticed–defense arrangements when they met in London late last month. The two countries agreed to seek a single joint contract for the in-service support of the Airbus A400M airlifters that both have ordered. If achieved, this will be the first such arrangement ever concluded.
The Airbus A400M is not just a military airlifter, according to Peter Scoffham, vice president of customer marketing for Airbus Military, speaking at the 2007 Military Airlift in London. It is also well-suited to the transport of humanitarian aid, which, he said, is one reason Malaysia has chosen the aircraft for its fleet.
A series of flight tests held in France this past summer has successfully shown that the Thales TopOwl helmet-mounted display system originally designed for helicopter pilots works just as well for those flying military transport aircraft. The tests made use of the TopOwl-H head up display (HUD) system now in full-scale production. Thales has made more than 400 to date.