Paris Air Show

Paris 2011: Airbus Military pioneers new support and training models

 - June 19, 2011, 5:20 AM

Airbus Military wants to boost revenue derived from support services from the current 10 to 15 percent of the total to between 30 and 40 percent during the next five years. It is offering to the customers that are buying the A330 tanker and the A400M airlifter a menu of options that have been developed from training and maintenance contracts for the CN235 and C295 military transport aircraft.

According to the European group, integrated service offerings such as these “demonstrably minimize the life-cycle cost” for the aircraft. The recently opened training center at Seville in southern Spain will offer more than 100 courses per year and full-flight simulators.

“Beyond traditional product support, our first offer is full in-service support [FISS],” explained Philippe Galland, head of customer services. This provides maintenance on and off the aircraft, spares, component repairs and a guarantee of the fleet’s availability. The contract is priced per flight hour, but with some fixed-price options.

In commercial aviation, many airlines have signed up for such deals, and defense/government operators are now following this trend, said Galland. The operator achieves certainty in budgeting, and there are cost benefits when Airbus Military is able to manage a pool of spares for multiple operators. Airbus Military also provides continuous fleet monitoring and up-to-date fleet configuration control. The company has signed up 15 C212, CN235 and C295 operators for FISS, plus the Brazilian and Spanish Air Forces for their P-3 Orions that were upgraded by Airbus Military.

Integrated Support Services

Beyond FISS, the company is offering integrated mission support services (IMSS). This additionally provides fully trained aircrew, plus mission planning, operations support and forward maintenance. The UK Royal Air Force has signed up for IMSS as part of the country’s private finance initiative (PFI) deal to acquire 14 A330MRTTs in the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) program.

The aircraft are being supplied through Airtanker Ltd., in which Airbus Military parent company EADS has a 40-percent stake. The IMSS contract for the FSTA is being executed through a second company, AirTanker Services Ltd., in which EADS holds a 28-percent stake. Airbus Military has signed a second IMSS contract with Spanish Customs for the operation of six C212s.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is the launch customer for the A330MRTT. Airbus Military has signed a 20-year contract with Qantas Defense Services, which will become the prime training and support contractor to the RAAF. According to Galland, this makes sense because Qantas is an existing operator of A330 airliners.

Prime Contractor for Support

For other customers, Airbus Military could assume the role of prime contractor for support. “We are flexible–whatever is the most efficient arrangement,” Galland added. For instance, to support the A3330MRTTs for the UAE Air Force, the company will act as a subcontractor to the advanced military maintenance, repair and overhaul center (AMROC) that Lockheed Martin and Mubadala are establishing in Abu Dhabi.

For the A400M airlifter, Airbus Military is already committed to supplying various services, with additional options, as part of the launch contract. For the longer term, it is negotiating a contract that is somewhere between the FISS and IMSS models with the air forces of France and the UK, who have agreed to cooperate in supporting their aircraft. “We recognize that the services for each A400M nation must reflect differing operational requirements,” Galland said.

Airbus Military is offering to provide central resources, such as an A400M maintenance center and the training center at Seville. It has submitted national and total training proposals to France and the UK, the latter in cooperation with Thales. Both countries will initially train aircrews in Seville. The company also is expecting a request for proposal from Germany for support services soon, and is in discussion with the other European launch nations. 

Last year, Galland’s predecessor, Richard Thompson, said the company aims to achieve airliner-standard dispatch reliability for the A400M–about 98 percent. “This compares with 85 percent for the C-17 and C-130J. We are also prepared to guarantee the number of hours downtime per year, which will be 50 percent that of the C-17,” he added. Thompson has since moved to head up Airbus in the UK.