Airbus’ A400M Aerial Transport: Delays and Development
Is Chile returning to the A400M, and dumping the KC-390?; Background updated, and core partner deal details moved to Appendix A.
Feb 27/14: Chile. Infodefensa reports that Chile has sent Airbus an RFI in September 2013 regarding 4-6 C295 light tactical transports, and is also expressing interest in up to 6 A400Ms. Chile actually signed a Declaration of Intent to buy up to 3 A400Ms in July 2005, but they formally switched their interest to Brazil’s smaller jet-powered KC-390 in 2010. Their tactical airlift fleet certainly needs some help, as it’s composed of 3 very aged C-130B/H Hercules medium tactical transports, 3 old C212 light tactical transports, and about 13 DHC-6 Twin Otter “bush planes”.
The C295 is already in Chilean service as a maritime patrol aircraft, and Chile is reportedly interested in signing a deal for a couple of transport variants before the end of the year. C-212s suffered a series of lethal accidents in 2012, including a Chilean crash that killed 21 people. Their replacement is a high priority. The A400M vs. KC-390 question is less clear, as Chile’s delivery timeline is closer to “end of the decade.” The 2010 MoU with Embraer isn’t binding, and Chilean sources told Infodefensa that:
“Lo que se hara sera evaluar las prestaciones de ese avion, cuando hayan ejemplares de produccion, para determinar si satisface los requerimientos operativos de Chile, sin descartar otras opciones que puedan cumplir dichos requerimientos en mejor forma”
Translation: “When the KC-390 has a flying plane to evaluate, we’ll see if it satisfies our requirements. But we reserve the right to pick something else first, if we think it meets our requirements better.” The A400M is a larger plane that will carry heavier loads, by a margin of around 10t, and may also perform better in Chile’s dusty environs. The flip side is that it’s a significantly more expensive plane, but Chile might be able to get a deal on some of the 13 “austere configuration” aircraft that Spain plans to sell. FACh commander in chief Gen. Jorge Rojas Avila happens to be in Spain at the time of the report, and plans to tour Airbus Military’s factory in Getafe. Sources: Infodefensa, “Chile, interesada en adquirir aviones C-295 y A400M” | Chile’s Defense & Military, “Is Chile Bailing Out on Embraer’s KC-390 Cargo Plane?”.
Airbus’ A400M is a EUR 20+ billion program that aims to repeat Airbus’ civilian successes in the full size military transport market. A series of smart design decisions were made around capacity (35-37 tonnes/ 38-40 US tons, large enough for survivable armored vehicles), extensive use of modern materials, multi-role capability as a refueling tanker, and a multinational industrial program; all of which leave the aircraft well positioned to take overall market share from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. If the USA’s C-17 is allowed to go out of production, the A400M would also have a strong position in the strategic transport market, with only Russian AN-70, IL-76 and AN-124 aircraft as competition.
Airbus’ biggest program issue, by far, has been funding for a project that is more than EUR 7 billion over budget. The next biggest issue is timing, as a combination of A400M delays and Lockheed’s strong push for its C-130J Super Hercules narrow the field for future exports. This DID Spotlight article covers the latest developments, as the A400M Atlas moves into the delivery phase. Will Airbus’ 3rd big issue become its own customers?
The A400M Program
A400M: Tech Specs and Issues
A400M: Industrial Team
Contracts & Key Events
2008 and earlier
Appendix A – The A400M Program: Dilemmas & a Deal
Background: A400M Program
News and Views
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