The French Air Force has taken delivery of the first A400M airlifter from Airbus Military. (Alexandre Doumenjou / ExmCompany)
LONDON — The French Air Force has taken delivery of the first A400M airlifter from Airbus Military following type certification and initial operating clearance of the aircraft in the last few days.
The DGA, the French military procurement agency, authorized the delivery today after issuing the military type certificate on July 24. The aircraft is scheduled to fly Aug. 2 to the French Air Force base at Orleans-Bricy from where it will operate.
The delivery marks the culmination of a 10-year effort by Airbus Military to develop a European airlifter. The program has overcome serious technical problems, delivery delays and budget overruns that almost saw Airbus and the partners nations scrap the airlifter.
Handover of the first aircraft follows the July 31 receipt of Type Acceptance at the Initial Operating Clearance standard from OCCAR, the European Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation, which has been managing the project on behalf of the seven-nation effort.
Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK joined in a program that together with export customer Malaysia has garnered 174 orders.
The production schedule should see a further two A400Ms delivered to France this year from the Airbus Military assembly plant in Seville, Spain, with Turkey also scheduled to receive its first aircraft.
Among the other significant A400M operators, Britain is scheduled to get its first aircraft next year, and German deliveries will follow in 2015.
The turboprop aircraft has a payload capability of up to 37 tons or 116 paratroopers, and can also serve as an air-to-air tanker for fast jets and other aircraft.
The milestone delivery comes just 24 hours after Airbus parent EADS announced that Airbus Military’s transport and air tanker aircraft are to be merged into a new defense and space business headquartered in Munich.
The military aircraft business unit will be based in Spain and include A400M, A330 tanker transports, Airbus’ share of the Eurofighter program and UAV activities.