Singapore Air Show

Will new deal to rescue A400M airlifter fly?

 - February 1, 2010, 3:35 AM

A deal to rescue the troubled Airbus A400M airlifter has been put together. Defense ministers from the European partner nations will meet on Wednesday to approve a reduction in their orders, originally set at 180 aircraft. No more money will be made available to EADS-Airbus, beyond the €20 billion that was agreed to in 2003 to cover the development and production.

A senior British officer involved in the negotiations told AIN yesterday that, as part of the deal, the nations will require Airbus Military to commit to a price for supporting the aircraft in service for the first five years. “Airbus has to do that for their airline customers, so why not for us too?” he said.

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has been particularly anxious to gain visibility about the in-service costs of the A400M, since they know such costs for the C-130J and the C-17, which are already in the RAF fleet. In the deal now emerging, the RAF will receive “not less than 22 aircraft,” according to the official, compared with 25 in the original contract.

Presumably, the other nations will accept proportionately similar reductions, leading to a total order of 150 to 160 aircraft.

In mid-January, the chief executive officers of EADS and Airbus declared that they would seek board approval to stop work on the A400M, if no way forward could be foreseen by the end of January. In response, the defense procurement ministers met in London on January 14 and 15. They said that all nations remained committed to the program “but not at any price.”