EADS Pleads with Customers for A400M Rethink

 - January 16, 2009, 8:17 AM

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. Airbus signed a fixed-price development and production deal for 180 airplanes in 2003 and hailed the deal as a new paradigm for European defense acquisition, based on commercial principles. But the company has already written off €1.75 billion on the project. “We completely underestimated [the task]...no military aircraft can be developed in less than 10 years, and in the A400M we are inventing everything,” EADS CEO Louis Gallois told the media this week. He said the company wanted to renegotiate “some technical specifications which are very demanding and costly, but which offer only marginal improvements in performance.” His comments suggested that the powerplants and their software are not the only problems, although he declined to provide specifics. AIN understands that the weight, pressurization and landing gear could also be major challenges. Gallois said that EADS Airbus could offer interim solutions to the nations, such as A330 freighters. France has the most urgent need for the A400M, and sources tell AIN that it has been offered 10 much smaller EADS-CASA C-295 airlifters. British Defence Minister John Hutton declared that a three- or four-year delay in the A400M project was unacceptable, and said that the UK might acquire some more C-17s.