Not Accepted Yet: The first A400M built for the Turkish Air Force makes its maiden flight Aug. 9. Turkey has cited technical flaws in its first delivered A400M. (Airbus)
ANKARA — Turkey, a partner in the multinational A400M airlifter consortium, is wrangling with the group over disputed technical snags blocking acceptance of its first aircraft.
Turkey received its first A400M late last year. But it has not yet given its official acceptance, citing technical failures, which has deeply annoyed consortium members.
Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders said he is frustrated by Turkey’s failure to accept delivery of the third production A400M, even though two of the military cargo planes are flying successfully with French forces.
“Turkey’s aircraft is ready to go, and it is the same aircraft that Airbus delivered to the French Air Force that has been instantly operational. I find the situation increasingly unacceptable,” Enders told a news conference.
The first of the turboprops performed well in ferrying French troops to Mali last year to combat insurgents in that African country, he said.
But Turkey’s chief arms procurement official, Murad Bayar, said the aircraft fails to meet the country’s acceptance criteria.
“Turkey is a shareholder of the Airbus A400M program. There cannot be a further bargain, and we could not see all contract conditions achieved on acceptance tests [for the aircraft],” Bayar told reporters. “For this reason, we had to talk with the Airbus consortium once again. I hope that when discussions are finalized, Turkey will receive the aircraft.”
Bayar did not go into detail over which contract specifications the aircraft has failed. Earlier, he had said the acceptance tests could take up to two months.
Enders implied Turkey is dragging its feet. “I constrain myself to one word. Bargaining.”
He added, “In a multinational program, that’s really a problem. How can you efficiently ramp up production if you have no certainty that your customers are taking those aircraft?”
Some industry sources have claimed the motivation behind Ankara’s actions is to delay payments. But Turkish officials vehemently deny that.
“The problem is simple: The aircraft just does not meet the technical criteria. There is no other reason for the delay in acceptance, and we are working hard to fix this,” said one procurement official familiar with the program. “We are not talking about a dramatic situation. Sooner or later, all problematic points will be resolved.”
The official admitted the country’s “bureaucracy” may be working a bit slowly, thinking that the A400M is “not an operational urgency for the Turkish military.”
A Turkish industry source blamed the delay on “over-meticulous examination” of the four-engine turboprop plane.
“It is a well-known fact that both the military and procurement officials involved in acceptance tests sometimes act too sensitive about the regulations. They want to see all the rules and specifications are fully met, and may be acting without any flexibility,” the source said.
Airbus, a European multinational aerospace and defense corporation, had been contracted to supply 10 A400Ms to Turkey.
Airbus is ramping up A400M production following years of delays and cost increases, which mean the program may not turn profitable unless the consortium wins additional orders beyond the 174 already secured.
Enders said Airbus should deliver 10 or 11 A400Ms this year while working on upgrading the turboprop to its full capabilities.
Turkey is a 5.5 percent shareholder in the A400M program, with Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries supplying fuselage and wing parts for the plane to plants in Bremen, Germany, and Filton, in Britain, for integration before final assembly in Seville, Spain. ■