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A400M Set to Enter Production

by John Reed on March 9, 2011

It’s finally happening. Europe’s A400M airlifter is set to enter production with the first four aircraft set for delivery in 2012.

This comes after years of speculation that the multinational program would be cancelled due to numerous development delays and cost overruns. It looks like perseverance (and a government bailout) paid off for the program which has orders for 174 planes, so far.

From Defense News:

Airbus said the first four aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2012 with production being ramped up to 2.5 machines a month by the end of 2015.

Civil certification is due this year and Airbus said in a statement it expected to hand over the first A400M to the French Air Force by early 2013.

This will be an interesting plane to watch. It fills an interesting niche between the C-130J Super Hercules and the C-17.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

blight March 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm

With the way payload demands gradually creep up over time, we will look at the C-130 as a lightweight transport. Originally the thing could drop Sheridans and M113s, and was slated to drop base level AGS until it was axed from the budget.

The Stryker /was/ supposed to deploy from a C-130 in ready-to-fight condition, but that requirement has been axed. Adding an aircraft between the 70-ton-capacity C-17 and the ~20-ton C-130 would not be a bad idea. However, who would deliver this hypothetical aircraft?

From an efficiency standpoint if you have an area that requires N C-130 deliveries you can offset more than one C-130 flight by replacing it with a aircraft with higher capacity. It improves average turnaround time per quantity and per unit mass, since delivery turnaround time depends on loading the aircraft twice, unloading twice and flying two round-trips.

However, the Air Force may simply be content to stick with the C-130/C-17 mix. How often would two C-130s be sent to do something? The more often, the more feasible a medium-lift aircraft would be in inventory.

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FormerDirtDart March 9, 2011 at 9:53 pm

I wonder if the Kawasaki XC-2 might also fit that niche between the C-130J and C-17.

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blight March 9, 2011 at 10:20 pm

From Wiki:

The aircraft is being developed to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Defense: a minimum payload of 26 tonnes, 120 ton (240,000 lb 108.8 tonnes) take-off weight, ability to land on short runways, (e.g. Tachikawa—900 m), a maximum payload of 37.6 tons (75,200 lb 34.1 metric tonnes) whilst taking off from a 2300m runway at a 141 tons (282,000 lb 127.9 tonnes) take-off weight, ability to fly international airway routes, tactical flight management system, automatic load/off-load system, in-flight refuelling and nightvision systems.

26-37 tons is pretty impressive. It was built in common with their future P-3 replacement (Kawasaki P-1).

I see no reason why we shouldn't buy into their program if possible. Or even to buy a few for testing.

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asdf March 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm

any idea or new news about the weight issues?
also: Finally!

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Cranky Observer March 9, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I wonder if the parties will set the A400's performance specs before it goes into service. Or before it is retired from service.

Cranky

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Cranky Observer March 10, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Update in Aviation Leak today (10 Mar): no, the parties involved still haven't agreed to the final performance specs. Funny sort of contract, that: price is now firm but capability and even number of units to be delivered is yet TBD.

Cranky

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jamesb101 March 9, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Hey strider you think Congress is gonna approve buying these?

I'll bet NO US service gets these….

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Curt March 10, 2011 at 3:28 am

As for those who regular complain about US defense programs, the A400 is
1. Years late
2. Dramatically over budget (costs more than an C-17)
3. Unable to meet its performance requirements (so they just changed them, it's good to have the customers be owners of the company)
4. Was developed under a fixed cost contract that was then modified because EADS threatened to cancel the whole program if the countries didn't cough up billions more, (see comment on 3 above)
Even to my European friends, it was funny to watch the negotiations between the A400 partners and EADS. As with most state owned businesses, everyone knew what the answer would be before they even started.

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Oblat March 10, 2011 at 4:32 am

Of course the difference between America and Europe is that EADS has to pay the money back to the governments whereas American largess is never repaid.

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Curt March 10, 2011 at 5:52 am

Oh contrare, you are misinformed, feel free to look it up. Tthe vast majority of the money was a gift to EADS. The part that wasn't, $1.8 billion, will only start to be repaid if and when the plane turns a profit, and it doesn't come with interest. Given it has not sold a single export version of the plane yet and has at least 27 planes in the minus to start with (Germany has agreed to "buy" all of theirs but will give 10 but give them to EADS to sell, expect several others partners to do the same, and 17 others were cancelled) and costs more than a C-17, it is unlikely to ever be paid back. Kind of like launch aid on the A340 which got crushed in the marketplace.

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Mastro March 10, 2011 at 7:09 pm

It might look good when a lot of C130H's and early C17's start to pile on the hours-

Any estimate on operating costs?

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Curt March 11, 2011 at 2:58 am

Not sure of the official numbers, but it is probably somewhat cheaper than a C-17 and more expensive than a C-130 per flight hour, if for no other reason than fuel use. Of course, the steady state operating costs will be difficult to assess for awhile because it has completely new engines and is a completely new airframe. The C-130 also benefits from a more mature supply chain and support infrastructure, at least initially.

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blight March 11, 2011 at 7:37 am

The benefits of maturity will last as long as suppliers continue to make parts. As things discontinue and airframes get old and aren't replaced by more C-130s, the already-there advantage begins to melt away…

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roland March 11, 2011 at 1:11 am

It looks like its a big plane where cargo, troops, cruise missiles and modern survellance attachment and equipment could fit in one plane.

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SJE March 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Unfortunately, part of the expertise is how to expertly fleece US taxpayers and yet get more and more $.
/sarcasm

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A. Nonymous March 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm

You'll notice the (overly snide, in my opinion) reference to a government payment increase on the A400M project. It only proves that cost overruns are not isolated to U.S. defense contractors and projects.

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Curt March 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Or it couldn't even reach 50% inservice rate. The C-5M has been performing pretty good but before that the C-5 never managed to kive up to its billing. Additionally, the C-17 was a C-141 replacement so it made different compromises and went for a smaller more handy package.

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blight March 11, 2011 at 7:43 am

I'm surprised we don't have some kind of lifter An-225 sized. It could easily replace a few supply trucks on the Khyber, however it would probably cost more to transport stuff than by other airlift. Bigger airlifters, more stress on the airframe, more costs to repair.

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blight March 10, 2011 at 9:04 pm

It all really depends on the average loads you are moving from base to base. If your supply rate is a fair number of C-130's per day you throw in a medium bird that can transport more per load, leading to reduced trips and reduced flight hours on the new birds.

It would require an insider to do some calculations…

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asdf March 12, 2011 at 9:43 am

the c-5?
i read about in in wikipedia.

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