The A400M remains a troublesome program for Airbus, which presentend its annual financial figures on Wednesday 22 February. The company’s profits shrunk by 63 percent to 995 million EUR in 2016, largely caused by continued delays in A400M development and production.
Last year, Airbus paid 2.2 billion EUR in charges over the delays, adding to charges worth billions of euros already paid in the past. Airbus is encountering fresh problems involving the A400M’s capability to carry and drop troops and military equipment.
The A400M is regarded as Europe’s largest defense program, with France, Germany, the UK, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey buying the aircraft to expand their military airlift capability. Germany especially is unhappy customer, reportedly encountering many problems with its A400Ms. So far, Malaysia is the only non-European buyer, although Indonesia now appears to show interest also.
In 2016, Airbus delivered a total of 17 A400Ms, against 11 in 2015. The aircraft manufacturer says it is continuing with improvements in A400M development and production. The company also aims to reduce risks surrounding the program, and furthermore seeks talks with customers to avoid growing charges.
© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: The first Malaysian Air Force A400M in flight on 30 January 2015 (Image © Airbus)
Indonesia is set to buy five Airbus A400M military airlift aircraft, worth 2 billion USD, according to reports on Thursday 19 January. If indeed true, that’s great news for Airbus and its somewhat troubled A400M program.
Indonesia was already known to eye the A400M as a replacement and add on for C-130 Hercules aircraft. Indonesia in recent years purchased additional C-130s from Australia, one of which unfortunately was lost in crash in 2016.
The A400M is in service in six countries, being France, the UK, Germany, Turkey and Malaysia. Additionaly, Belgium and Luxembourg have ordered the type.
An order would be a very welcome boost for the A400M program, that suffered a fatal crash almost two years ago, plus some bad press in the German press in particular.
The Spanish Air Force took delivery of its first Airbus A400M on Thursday 17 November. It is the first of 27 aircraft ordered. Spain is the sixth nation to put the A400M into service, following France, the UK, Germany, Turkey and Malaysia.
Representatives of the Spanish Air Force and Ministry of Defense formally accepted the aircraft, known as MSN44, from Airbus in a brief ceremony at the A400M final assembly line (FAL) in Seville, Spain.
The A400M will replace the Spanish Air Force’s C-130 Hercules. Under an agreement signed in September, 14 aircraft will be delivered at a steady pace between now and 2022, and the remaining 13 are scheduled for delivery from 2025 onwards. It is however not clear if Spain will actually take up this last batch, as funds may not allow it. In that case, Spain could very well re-sell the aircraft.
The Spanish A400M fleet will be based at Zaragoza in north east Spain and will operate alongside medium C295 and CN235, and light C212 aircraft – MSN44 will fly to Zaragoza in the coming days.
The Airbus A400M airlifter expanded its capabilities as an air-to-air refuelling platform by successfully demonstrating air-to-air refuelling contacts with another A400M, Airbus reported on Monday 14 November. In two flights conducted from Seville, Spain the development aircraft performed more than 50 contacts in level flight and turns using the centreline hose and drum unit (HDU).
Airbus ephasizes that its A400M is the only tactical tanker with this third refuelling point, in addition to its underwing pods, enabling refuelling of large receivers such as another A400M or C-130. It has a basic fuel capacity of 63,500 litres, which can be increased with two extra cargo hold tanks carrying 7,200 litres each, and can refuel from the HDU at a rate of 2,000 litres (600 US gallons) per minute. The technique would allow the A400M to carry a 20 tonne payload more than 6,000nm / 11,000km non-stop from Paris, France to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The standard A400M aircraft has full provisions for air-to-air refuelling (AAR) operations already installed and only requires the rapid installation of the optional air-to-air refuelling kit to become a tanker.
Germany is set to buy and operate four to six Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft in a joint effort with France, German reports say on Tuesday 4 October. Berlin with such a move clearly shows it doesn’t have much faith in the Airbus A400M, which is now being delivered to the German Luftwaffe at a painfully slow rate while also showing shortcomings for which Berlin seeks compensation.
The Hercules aircraft are to be delivered in 2021 and based in France, according to sources. They would be fitted especially for special operations and be able to operate from unpaved runways.
If anything, the purchase is a clear signal to Airbus that the Germans are fed up with the A400M. Germany has 53 of the type on order but only saw delivery of a handful of aircraft as a result of production delays and operational limitations. Berlin now apparently think the A400M will never be the ‘tactical’ airlifter it thought it ordered.
France already ordered four C-130J Super Hercules aircraft earlier, while Germany was known before to also look at other options apart from the A400M. A joint purchase of new C-130s was never on the cards, however. The German-Franco aircraft will likely be stationed at Orleans airbase in France, home to the existing French Hercules fleet.