Europe’s failure to launch a medium-altitude long-endurance (Male) UAV to compete with long-established offerings from Israel and the U.S. was a major talking point at last week’s Paris Air Show. AIN’s team of editors and reporters provided full coverage of the world’s biggest aerospace event; all the stories can be found online at www.ainonline.com–some of them in longer form than we were able to publish in our four print editions of Paris Airshow News.
French Air Force
The second production A400M for the French air force (MSN8) was at the Paris Air Show, and President François Hollande flew into the show aboard one of the prototypes. However, Airbus Military has missed its target of making its first delivery of the new airlifter in the second quarter. According to operations director Bruno Sainjon from the DGA, which is the French defense agency responsible for approving the aircraft for service, “there are still some certification issues to take care of. We are still negotiating a bit.”
On display in the Thales pavilion, the AESA (active electronically scanned array) version of the RBE2 radar will soon become the first of its kind to go operational in Europe. The first French air force Rafale squadron to convert to the new fighter will receive four AESA-equipped aircraft in October. The first production radar was delivered last October and is completing operational testing at Mont de Marsan airbase.
With delivery of the first A400M airlifters nearing, Airbus Military has concluded an initial support deal with the French air force and a long-term training contract with the UK Royal Air Force (RAF). Meanwhile, Airbus Military is equipping its international training center in Seville with A400M computer-based trainers and a full-motion simulator.
Airbus Military still expects to deliver the first production A400M to the French Air Force in the second quarter. The milestone slipped by three months following a gearbox fault last summer, which interrupted function and reliability (F&R) flight-testing. To support its recent military intervention in Mali, France turned to the UK Royal Air Force C-17 fleet, which flew troops and equipment from Villacoublay to Bamako.
The French Air Force will sign a contract for between five and seven A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports in 2013, with quick deliveries foreseen, according to its commander General Jean-Paul Palomeros. Budget difficulties thwarted earlier French attempts to procure a new tanker.
Happy Design Studio (Stand W362) has signed a contract to design the new liveries for freighters operated by Maximus Air Cargo, based here in the United Arab Emirates. This is the French company’s first major deal in the region; it has expanded quickly since launching its specialist aircraft paint scheme operation two years ago at the 2009 Dubai Air Show.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy will be flying in a style more becoming the nation’s leader with a recent government decision to acquire an Airbus A330-200 that will be outfitted as the country’s newest head-of-state aircraft.
Four Rafale fighters from the French Air Force have completed a month-long deployment to the U.S., where they conducted a squadron exchange at Luke AFB and then took part in a Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB. According to Dassault, no shootdowns were scored against the Rafale during the 10-day exercise, and American observers were particularly impressed with the accuracy of the fighter’s Sagem AASM “smart” bombs.
In March, Socata appointed Stéphane Jacques as its new chief test pilot. The 44-year-old pilot succeeded Christian Briand, who retired after a 40-year career, 19 of them as a Socata test pilot, logging more than 19,000 flight hours.