Flight testing of the A400M airlifter is on track, and Airbus Military expects civil type certification (TC) by the end of the year, according to the new head of the program, Cedric Gautier. The four development aircraft have now logged more than 1,600 flight hours and will be joined by a fifth next October, which will be in production configuration. After TC, the next milestone will be Initial Operating Capability (IOC) to be achieved by the middle of next year, followed by delivery of the first production aircraft to the French Air Force in the first quarter of 2013. At least three more aircraft will be delivered that year, including one to Turkey. The UK, Germany and possibly Malaysia will receive aircraft from late 2014; Spain in late 2015; and Belgium/Luxembourg in 2018-19. The production rate will rise to 2.5 per month by 2015.
According to the revised schedule agreed with the partner nations, the aircraft’s capabilities will be enhanced progressively through five Standard Operational Clearances (SOCs) from 2013 through 2019. Full aerial delivery comes by the end of 2013, but full defensive aids integration comes later, and full low-level flight is deferred until 2019. “We will prove all the basic functionalities by SOC1, [but] some of the human machine interfaces and workload reductions through the flight management system (FMS) will come later,” said chief test pilot Ed Strongman. Full agreement on the FMS development path with subcontractor Thales has been reached, but AM officials decline to say whether the company is still claiming damages from Thales for delays.