First Production A400M in Assembly as Airbus Military Predicts Export Demand

 - December 2, 2011, 8:50 AM
The fuselage of the first production A400M is unloaded from a Beluga freighter nose-docked at the Airbus Military factory in Seville. (Photo: Airbus Military)

Airbus Military has begun final assembly of the first production A400M, slated for the French Air Force. The company says that delivery of this aircraft (MSN7) is on schedule for the first quarter of 2013, thanks to good progress in the flight-test program.

The next customer to take delivery will be Turkey, also in 2013, followed by the UK, Germany and Malaysia, all in the second half of 2014. By the time that Spain takes delivery of its first aircraft in late 2015, the production rate will have reached the maximum of 28 to 30.

The remaining partner, Belgium, does not require delivery of its first aircraft until late 2018. “We will have slots available for new customers in 2016-17, in between further deliveries to the European partners,” said Gustavo Garcia Miranda, v-p of market development, at the recent Dubai Air Show. He predicted that Airbus Military would sell 300 A400Ms over the next 20 years, of a total forecast demand for 800 heavy airlifters during that period.

Also at Dubai, French Air Force commander Gen. Jean Palomeros commented on recent criticism of Airbus Military’s offer for initial support of the A400M, by the senior French defense procurement official. French media further reported that the company’s quote was 20 percent higher than expected, and that it was reluctant to make commitments in respect of the aircraft’s TP400 turboprops.

Palomeros told AIN the French and British air forces are pushing to get the best quote, and that difficult negotiations are to be expected. “We have had very fruitful discussions with the UK over a new type of joint support contract,” he continued. Palomeros said that the two countries would agree to an interim contract until in-service experience made it possible to negotiate a long-term support deal.