Airbus’ A400M Aerial Transport: Delays, Development, and Deployment
December 13/19: France The French Air Force’s 16th A400M arrived at Orléans-Bricy Air Base on December 4. The arrival followed its acceptance by the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA). The aircraft was the first A400M capable of dropping a 16-tonne load and perform air-to-air refueling. A tactical military transport aircraft with a strategic range, the A400M Atlas has been operational since 2015 and allows the Air Force to carry out regular missions to all overseas operation theaters and overseas locations. It also played a key role during the 2017 airlift following hurricane “Irma.” It is designed to carry up to 37 tons of equipment and carry out all transport missions, including assault landing on semi-prepared strips, parachuting personnel and equipment, in-flight refueling and medical evacuations.
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
2014 – 2019
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