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A400M: Gallois Confident Despite British Ire
« on: January 17, 2009, 12:22:29 AM »
A400M: Gallois Confident Despite British Ire
Jan 14, 2009

By Douglas Barrie

LONDON Despite British exasperation with continuing delays to the Airbus A400M airlifter, EADS CEO Louis Gallois remains publicly confident London will stay the course on the embattled military program.

As a conciliatory gesture, Gallois says EADS is looking at “bridging” options to try to ease the effect of the latest delay.

Gallois, responding to blunt comments by John Hutton, U.K. defense secretary, admits the minister’s frustration is understandable. EADS has now delayed substantially the production launch of the aircraft as it struggles to resolve mounting technical and contractual issues.

“The A400M program is now likely to be subject to considerable delay...because of problems that EADS is having in producing the aircraft,” Hutton told the British Parliament.

“We cannot accept a three- or four-year delay in the delivery of those aircraft. That would impose an unnecessary, unacceptable strain on our air assets,” he said Jan. 12. “We, along with all our partner nations, will have to consider very carefully what the right response to the problem is.”

But exactly what would be acceptable to Britain has yet to become clear.

EADS is now proposing that the first delivery of the A400M would “occur around three years after first flight.” It is also trying to renegotiate the contract with the seven core nations on the program. On Jan. 9, the company called for a new approach to the troubled airlifter.

Originally slated for 2007, the prototype is now anticipated to be flown later this year. Problems with the propulsion — particularly the full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system — are holding up the first flight. A flightworthy FADEC has yet to be delivered. There have also been problems with other aircraft systems.

There is particular U.K. political sensitivity concerning the A400M because of the strain already being placed on the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) transport fleet to sustain the “air bridge” supporting combat operations in Afghanistan. The latest delay to the A400M likely will mean the United Kingdom has to operate some of its aging Lockheed Martin C-130K Hercules fleet longer than currently planned.

Gallois says EADS is “proposing a bridging solution to help [with] the lack of capacity” for some of the seven partner nations on the A400M program. He suggested the Airbus A330 could be used as a stopgap to provide some airlift that the A400M is eventually due to fulfill. He suggests this option could be applicable to Britain and France.

The RAF has already selected the Airbus A330 to meet its Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft program, with the first aircraft currently due to enter service in 2011. An initial air-to-air refueling capability is scheduled for introduction in 2014. Industry is already exploring whether it could bring forward “significantly” the introduction of the first A330s for the RAF.

Hutton also told parliament the U.K. is considering whether to add to its small fleet of Boeing C-17s.



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