France is facing an airlift crunch. In addition to the delays created by the A400M program’s cost growth and technical challenges, France will be receiving fewer A400Ms by 2020, in order to keep the program within existing budgets. With the air force’s Transall C-160s near the end of their useful life spans, and the existing fleet of 52 C-160s, 2 Airbus A310-304s, 14 aging but upgraded C-130H-30s, and 19 CN-235-200s able to meet just 25% of the airlift requirements set out in France’s defense white paper, stopgap solutions are clearly necessary.
In 2010, France signed a EUR 225 million (about $303 million) contract to add 8 more EADS-CASA CN-235-300M light transport aircraft to its existing fleet, in order to help the Armée de l’Air handle the country’s needs while the future A400M transport is delayed…
Contracts & Key Events
Nov 17/11: The French DGA receives its 1st CN-235-300M from Airbus Military, 2 months ahead of schedule. French DGA [in French].
June 28/10: EUR 225 million deal for 8 CN235-300M planes announced. The new aircraft will be manufactured in Spain, and delivered from 2011-2013.
Note that growing the CN-235 fleet to 27 is only a partial solution. France is expected to finalize plans for A330 MRTT aircraft in the near future, which add some cargo capacity in addition to their primary aerial refueling mission. There has been talk of advancing the delivery schedule for the A330s, and of making more use of leased aircraft under NATO’s SALIS (AN-124, IL-76) and SAC (C-17) programs. French DGA [in French] | Defense News.