Airbus Revs Up for A400M Production

Airbus Revs Up for A400M Production

FARNBOROUGH, England — Airbus Defense and Space is preparing for a massive increase in production of A400M strategic and tactical military airlifter. Two A400M’s were delivered to the French military last year and one was sent to Turkey. This year the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is poised to receive the first of 22 ordered A400Ms in September, Airbus officials told Military​.com.

“This is the most advanced transport aircraft in the world. We will deliver 11 aircraft this year and 20 next year. By the end of 2015, we expect to be producing new A400Ms at a rate of 2.1 aircraft per month,” a spokesman for Airbus Defense and Space said here at the Farnborough International Airshow.

The airlifter is engineered for a range of missions to include cargo transport, troop transport, humanitarian relief, paratrooper missions, air-to-air refueling and missions that require an austere landing such as the ability to land on a dirt strip, Airbus officials said.

The A400M recently completed a successful air-to-air refueling test with a Spanish F-18 fighter jet, Airbus officials explained.

The A400M aircraft also finished its first paratrooper exercises earlier this month over France and Spain with Spanish troops during 11 different flights. The aircraft is configured to carry up to 116 paratroopers.

Other customers include Germany, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Malaysia. Airbus officials said conversations with other potential international customers were also underway. Various parts of the large aircraft are built throughout Europe, however final assembly of the A400M takes place in Seville, Spain.

Developers say the A400M has long-range flight capability similar to a U.S. Air Force C-17 while maintaining the tactical, rugged-landing ability of the USAF C-130 aircraft. Airbus officials say the A400M can fly with twice the payload of a C-130 or carry the same payload twice as far.

Equipped with four 11,000-horse power TP-400 engines, the A400M military aircraft can reach speeds of Mach .72 and travel distances as far as 8,700 kilometers. Its maximum take-off weight is 310,850 pounds, Airbus officials explained.  The fuselage, or cabin cross-section is designed at four-meters by four-meters to allow for maximum cargo carrying capacity. An entire Apache helicopter or modified Chinook helicopter can be transported by the aircraft, Airbus officials said.

Using specially-engineered eight-bladed propellers, the aircraft is engineered to approach jet-engine speeds, reach altitudes of 40,000 feet and retain the ability to land on dirt or gravel surfaces without needing a runway.

“The aircraft is engineered for rough field performance. It has 12 main landing wheels with low-pressure tires. The more wheels you have, the lower the pressure on the ground from any one wheel,” the Airbus spokesperson said.

Propeller aircraft also give pilots the ability to make a steeper approach into landing, something which could be of great value in a rugged or mountainous environment, Airbus officials said.

Rough field landing performance could be particularly useful for humanitarian relief missions where disaster sites might be long distances away from airports or runways.

The French military recently used the A400M for missions in Mali Africa and found great tactical relevance in being able to land the large aircraft hundreds of miles away from a concrete runway, Airbus officials said.

In the cockpit, the A400M has some military-specific technologies but is 95-percent compatible with Airbus’ commercial A380 aircraft. This includes fly-by-wire controls, moving digital maps, Satcom connectivity and other avionics, company officials said. Pilots in the A400M receive most of their information through a heads-up display showing pertinent information with icons such as altitude, attitude and barometric pressure.

The wings of the aircraft are engineered with composite materials blended with titanium. The cockpit and other sensitive parts of the aircraft are armored to protect from small arms fire. In addition, like other aircraft, a void is built in between the so-called wet fuel and the rest of the tank in order to prevent flammable vapor.

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For European countries to buy an extremely costly global-reach airlifter for their atrophied, barely deployable militaries is a bit like buying a gold-plated collar and leash so you can proudly walk the dog you don’t own.

The A400M is going to be a big seller globally. It hits a well known sweet spot between the C130 and C17.
Sales of both the C130 and C17 are going to suffer outside the US where our purchases take little account of utility or cost.

The J model of the C-130 was supposed to be the A-400M killer. It was almost successful but Lockheed, in their infinite wisdom, over priced the J by such a large margin that it failed to do it’s job. Now days their engineering is so inept that they are driving customers away with their sheer stupidity.

Because they have sold so many already? The problem of the A400 has always been that it is too big. Outside of Europe, where it is corporate welfare, very few countries will buy it. Even the partner nations are working as hard as possible to back out of their commitments. Airbus is already working on over 40 “give back to sell” from it’s original orders. It is too big and too expensive to replace a C-130 and the vast number of countries just don’t have the need its capability. The KC-390 makes far more sense (C-130 size with 90pct of the capability with a much lower cost).

As soon as an European program become successfull, it must not exist in the USA !
Good luck with the F-35 guys.

One of my C-130 pals said the problem with the J model was that the interior box for the wing spars was not reinforced to save money, thus, the more powerful engines can’t perform as designed, though the fuel economy is better — anyone heard anything similar?

A “sweet spot” where it can’t carry a modern main battle tank unlike the C-17?

Maybe the expectation held by these Europeans is that US will continue to provide the overwhelming majority of NATO funding, with some of that treated as a pooled resource, and the European NATO members can use some of that pooled resource to continue funding SALIS (see link below), “chartering Antonov AN-124–100 transport aircraft as a Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS). SALIS provides assured access to up to six AN-124–100 aircraft (mission-ready within nine days in case of crisis) in support of NATO/EU operations. The Russian and Ukrainian Antonov aircraft are being used as an interim solution to meet shortfalls in the Alliance’s strategic airlift capabilities, pending deliveries of Airbus A400M aircraft. This is why the project is called Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS). The SALIS initiative is planned to continue until the end of 2014. Participating nations have already expressed a need for the continuation of the initiative but will adjust their requirement as the Airbus A400M aircraft come into service…”

SALIS participants are a consortium that “includes 12 NATO nations (Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom) and two partner nations (Finland and Sweden).“

Yes there will be more competition at the low end. Meanwhile the C17 line will be shut down leaving a very wide range for the A400M.

Most C130 operators would like to replace their aircraft with fewer larger aircraft as its more efficient, now they can without having to buy the gold plated C17.

>A “sweet spot” where it can’t carry a modern main battle tank unlike the C-17?


A lot of engine replacement programs don’t beef up the wing for the new engine. This allows them to flat rate the engine so it puts out a constant amount of thrust up to some altitude. With the new electronically controlled engines this is an easy thing to do in software. As I understand it, though, there are a number of other things that should have been done to the wing that would have given the airplane considerably more range but the current inept management thinks any change is too risky.

Yes, because there is such a huge demand for strategic airlift. Oh wait, no there isn’t. And for tactical airlift, no one needs a huge A-400. Especially when it is more expensive than a C-17! Outside of places where AIRBUS can bribe their way to a few sales (like South Africa for instance) or the Arabian Gulf (where there may be a few token purchases), the A400 is DOA. Just to make up the cancelled orders from the original partners, Airbus has to resell at least 40 airframes, and the original partners have already indicated they would happily sell some more of there’s if Airbus finds suckers, I mean customers, for the first 40.

Yeah, most countries let their soldiers make weapons from indigenous materials when they get to the battlefield.

It is laughable isn’t it? The cost of the C-17 without the heavy-lift capability.

Even Airbus executives don’t like the program:
“I am determined, at least for my company, not to ever again walk into such a program, and rather to resist [that kind of] contracting and say, ‘no, we’re not going there,’”

Great aircraft, it really is. That being said, only time will tell if enough countries can afford to operate it. I can see a place for it in the US military but with budgets being constrained, I would be surprised if we purchased it. The F-35 is a different story all together, doesn’t even belong in this conversation.


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