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Airbus Begins A400M Deliveries, Hopes for Exports

Oct. 10, 2013 - 09:11PM   |  
By BURAK EGE BEKDIL   |   Comments
An Airbus A400M airlifter sits on the tarmac in France ahead of its Sept. 30 handover ceremony in Spain. Airbus hopes deliveries will launch strong sales worldwide. (Getty Images)
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SEVILLE, SPAIN — Airbus Military, the multinational consortium that builds the A400M, will soon deliver the first airlifter to the Turkish military, consortium and Turkish officials said.

The first Turkish A400M will operate at an air base in Kayseri in central Turkey.

“The first aircraft for the Turkish military will be delivered in the coming weeks,” Tom Enders, CEO of EADS, Airbus’ parent company, said at a Sept. 30 ceremony here for the delivery of the first A400M for the French Air Force.

Turkey’s chief procurement official, Murad Bayar, said Oct. 2 that the first Turkish A400M would arrive this month. He said Turkey will receive 10 aircraft in the next two to three years.

Bayar said the A400M program would cost Turkey $1.5 billion, and the same amount of money would go to the country’s local industry in work share.

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is manufacturing the main fuselage for all 174 A400Ms to be produced as part of this international program. Turkey, a 5.5 percent shareholder of the program, hopes business for local companies will increase as more aircraft are produced for export markets, Bayar said.

“No single partner country could have tackled this program alone,” Bayar said. “The A400M is a perfect example of successful multinational partnership, despite delays. In fact, the lack of a similar European aerospace program in Europe exposes the continent’s aviation industry to the risk of being left out of the game,” Bayar said.

Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and Britain joined in the program that, together with export customer Malaysia, has garnered 174 orders.

“This aircraft has the potential to conquer export markets,” Enders said.

French Defense Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said the export potential for the A400M is “huge,” as the project, estimated at a total value of $27 billion, began delivering aircraft to its founding nations after years of delays.

The handover of the first French aircraft followed the July 31 receipt of type acceptance at the initial operating clearance standard from OCCAR, the European Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation, which has been managing the project on behalf of the seven-nation effort.

The first two aircraft were delivered by Airbus to initial operational capability (IOC) standard, offering functionalities limited to logistical flights only. They will have no tactical or refueling capabilities. The third production aircraft — the one for Turkey — was also be built in the IOC version.

Just before the first French aircraft’s delivery in August, EADS announced that Airbus Military’s transport and air tanker aircraft were 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.

Among the other significant A400M operators, Britain is scheduled to get its first aircraft next year, and German deliveries will follow in 2015.

Earlier, the A400M venture overcame serious technical problems, delivery delays and budget overruns that almost saw Airbus and the partner nations scrap the program. But since then, the tone has changed.

“I can’t give you any figures, but there is huge capacity for exports; the political and industrial winds are synchronized,” Le Drian told reporters Sept. 30 at the sidelines of the ceremony.

Le Drian said export chances were boosted by the fact that the aircraft is going into service.

“It’s difficult to export aircraft if they haven’t been tested by the armed forces,” he said.

The aircraft was conceived in the 1980s to meet a looming shortfall in military transport capacity among the seven European NATO nations.

The A400M competes with the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules turboprop and the larger Boeing C-17 cargo jet.

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.

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