Four European engine exhibitors at Dubai–Rolls-Royce, Safran, MTU and ITP–are fighting to recover an engine program that has run into serious problems during testing, forcing major delays to the Airbus Military A400M transport currently being campaigned as the answer to medium uplift requirements in the UAE and other Gulf states.
According to Airbus Military marketing vice-president David Jennings, a sales team visited the region “very recently” to discuss the advantages the new airlifter would offer. “They wanted to know when it would be available,” he said. “We couldn’t tell them because we don’t know ourselves.”
The 11,000shp Europrop International TP400, the most powerful turboprop the West has ever developed, ran into trouble when problems with oil system contamination and higher than expected loads during early tests forced a delay to the planned first flight aboard a Lockheed Martin C-130 test bed earlier this year. The engine has still not flown, but delivery to Marshall Aerospace for the test program is said to be “imminent.” The aircraft now faces at least a six-month delay, its maiden flight having been pushed back from January 2008 to mid-year at the earliest.
France will receive its first A400M in early 2010, and Turkey is due to take delivery of the second shortly thereafter. So far the nine A400M customers have signed for a total of 192 aircraft. Thereafter, Airbus Military has made no secret of its intention to broaden the scope of its marketing activities, particularly in the Middle and Far East.
“We are active in the Gulf region,” said Jennings. “It is a part of the world where there is an active military requirement, there are threats, and there are budgets.”
It will clearly be several years before the A400M becomes a reality at the Dubai Airshow, but Jennings said the aircraft has generated a “lot of interest.” Potential customers in the region will not be offered manufacturing opportunities, as these have long since been swallowed up by the existing partners. Jennings said “significant” offset possibilities exist, however, through maintenance and repair organizations such as Dubai Aerospace Enterprise and Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies.