France Eyes C-130Js to Fill A400M Gap

Click here for more news / Clique aqui para mais notícias

Michael A. Taverna mike_taverna@aviationweek.com

France will consider leasing or buying Lockheed Martin C-130J air transports as part of a plan to meet urgent airlift requirements until it receives its first A400M transports, or in the event the program is terminated.

EADS' A400M is years behind schedule and currently locked in a three-month standstill while the European launch nations discuss possible remedies, including a new delivery timetable and price schedule, a possible cutback or stretch-out in orders, and relaxation of specifications and penalties with prime contractor EADS and its Airbus Military aircraft group. The standstill ends at the end of June, at which time partners will be free to exercise provisions allowing them to modify their purchase or pull out of the 20 billion euro ($28 billion) program.

Pursuing the undertaking and fixing development problems related to the TP400M engine, mission systems and aircraft performance could cost 5 billion euros or more.

Meeting with reporters today, French Defense Minister Herve Morin said the launch customers will meet next week on the side of a NATO meeting to appraise the situation. Discussions are currently focused on four points: penalties, price revision, a price escalation clause and the industrial risk, including new delivery schedule and production rate. He said France and Spain remain committed to continuing the program, but that there is still not indication as to whether Germany will budge on specifications, and whether Britain will follow through with threats to pull out. He agreed the resignation of U.K. defense minister John Hutton earlier today could complicate talks.

Morin said the list of options to ensure fallback capacity in the absence of the A400M has been expanded to include lease or purchase of an undetermined number of C-130Js. Defense officials had previously said they would entertain lease of Boeing C-17s via a nascent NATO pool arrangement, as well as further use of Russian AN-124s leased by the alliance, the acquisition or lease of EADS Casa 295s, and moving forward the acquisition of Airbus 330 multirole tanker transports.

He said he had approved the modernization of the 10 newest C160 Transalls so they could remain in service until the first A400Ms arrive in 2014-15.

The A330 option would be limited to a couple aircraft and would not have any bearing on plans for a full-fledged MRTT program competition, either as a private financing initiative or a conventional purchase or lease, Morin said. Whatever the capacity solution retained the overall budget for the A400M, including interim capability requirements, could not exceed the current budget envelope, he pointed out. This could imply reducing or stretching out France's planned 50-unit A400M buy.

Morin declined to comment on EADS assurances that the A400M would make its first flight by year's end. But he insisted that the program remains worthwhile, with attractive export prospects, including in Australia. He said flight tests of the A400M's TP400 turboprop engine are going well and that the engine "is giving full satisfaction," according to armaments agency DGA.

C-130 photo credit: Lockheed Martin

◄ Share this news!

Bookmark and Share


The Manhattan Reporter

Recently Added

Recently Commented