Airbus Defence and Space announced on September 1 that it has received an order from the Republic of Kazakhstan for two A400M airlifters. The order brings the number of A400M customers to nine. The first aircraft is scheduled to be handed over in 2024. To support the aircraft, Airbus will deliver a complete training and maintenance support package. A memorandum of understanding has been signed to collaborate on maintenance and overhaul services and marks the first step in the creation of a local maintenance center for the C295 medium airlifter.
The Kazakh order brings the number of A400Ms sold to 176, a figure that Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus D&S, “expects to increase in the near future.” In May this year, Airbus delivered the 100th A400M—the 10th aircraft for the Spanish air force—and the global fleet has passed 100,000 hours in operation. The most recent nation to begin receiving aircraft was Belgium, for which the first was delivered in December 2020. This aircraft was preceded by Luxembourg's sole A400M, which operates in a joint squadron with the Belgians at Brussels-Melsbroek.
The A400M order follows the supply of eight Airbus C295s for the Kazakhstan Air Defence Force agreed to under an MoU signed in 2012. In March 2019 a ninth aircraft was acquired for use by the Kazakh Border Service.
For the Kazakhstan Air Defence Force, the acquisition of A400Ms will represent a significant improvement in its airlift capability. The country inherited sizeable numbers of Russian types on the breakup of the Soviet Union and continues to maintain close defense ties with Moscow. The well-equipped fighter force includes MiG-31s, MiG-29s, and upgraded Su-27s, as well as 21 recently acquired Su-30SMs. Russia announced at the Army 2021 trade exhibition in August that four more Su-30SMs will be delivered to Kazakhstan by the end of 2022.
In terms of transport capability, the Kazakh air force has an aging fleet of An-12s and An-26s, mostly based at Almaty. While the delivery of C295s modernized the medium transport fleet, the A400Ms will take over much of the heavy-lift burden from the An-12s. Landlocked Kazakhstan is the world’s ninth-largest country in terms of area, yet it has one of the lowest population densities. The A400M’s ability to carry large loads to austere strips in distant communities will make it a valuable asset for emergency relief operations, as well as enhance mobility for the armed forces both domestically and internationally.