A400M decision imminent: Cabinet


Cabinet has made a decision on whether to continue with the purchase of eight Airbus Military A400M Loadmaster strategic transport aircraft but the public will have to wait a few more days to hear what it is.

Cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko says defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu will announce the way forward “within the next few days”.

“Decisions will be taken and we’ll make an announcement fairly soon about what’s going to happen with that particular matter,” Maseko said at yesterday’s Cabinet briefing.

“It will be a decision on the contract,” Maseko said, “whether government will continue with the contract or not.”

Armscor CE Sipho Thomo last week told Parliament the cost of the acquisition – Project Continent – had soared from R17 billion to R47 billion.

But Airbus Military denied this, saying the “price tag which has been attributed to Armscor’s CEO, Mr Sipho Thomo, is wildly exaggerated.”

Airbus Military and Department of Defence head of communications Siphiwe Dlamini have confirmed that they are in talks about the price and delivery schedule of the aircraft.

Difficulties with the programme have delayed the project by up to four years and added to its cost – though by how much is not known. Reuters has priced the programme at 120 billion euro (R219 billion) for 192 aircraft.

Present order are:

  • Germany 60

  • France 50

  • Spain 27

  • United Kingdom 25

  • Turkey 10

  • South Africa 8

  • Belgium 7

  • Malaysia 4

  • Luxembourg 1

The French Air Force was to have received its first A400M aircraft this year. The SA Air Force was expecting its initial aircraft next year.

Thomo’s colleague, Armscor’s general manager of acquisitions Sipho Mkwanazi, at the same time put the new delivery date as 2016.

An Airbus Military spokesman has disputed this, saying no new delivery date or purchase price has yet been agreed. As such, the contractual delivery price remains 837 million euro (now R9.4 billion). Thomo has yet to explain either the R17 or R47 billion figures.