Fifth A400M Flies; South African Settlement Reached

 - December 23, 2011, 9:15 AM
The last A400M development aircraft, MSN6, took off from Seville on December 20. (Photo: Airbus Military)

Airbus Military flew the fifth and last A400M development aircraft for the first time on December 20. This aircraft carries only a light load of flight-test instruments and will be used mainly for electromagnetic interference (EMI) testing, cold-weather trials, the proving of cargo loads and operational demonstrations. The company reports the A400M has now logged more than 2,500 of the 3,700 flight-test hours planned. An “aggressive” schedule is planned for 2012, so that first delivery can take place by early 2013.

The company also announced a settlement with South Africa, two years after that country canceled an order for eight A400Ms, citing cost increases and schedule delays. Airbus Military has refunded predelivery payments that, according to a South African government estimate in 2009, totaled $350 million. South Africa joined the program as a full industrial partner in 2005, when it agreed to pay €837 million for eight aircraft, partially offset by five subcontracts to Denel and Aerosud for A400M roof panels, wing-fuselage fairings, wingtips, interior linings and galleys. The unit price of about €105 million was the same as that originally agreed with the European partner nations (including amortized development cost). After the 2010 renegotiation, the European partners will now be paying €140- to €150 million per aircraft, including amortized development and initial support ($182- to $195 million at current exchange rates).

Malaysia’s contract for four aircraft was the only other export deal signed before the European renegotiation. AIN understands that talks to increase the price that Malaysia should pay are ongoing. Although Airbus Military has predicted strong export demand for the A400M, the company’s pricing will have to reflect the €1.5 billion that it must repay to the European governments as a levy on future exports, as agreed during the 2010 renegotiation.

Despite the South African cancellation, Airbus Military did not pull the A400M subcontracts from Denel and Aerosud. According to CEO Domingo Urena, the recent settlement allows Airbus Military “to explore further opportunities, including upcoming acquisition projects” in South Africa.