Airbus Military growing its product line


Airbus Military is growing its product line with new developments, such as gunships and airborne early warning aircraft, and is improving its existing offerings, such as the C295, as it adapts to changing market conditions.

Airbus Military, at its annual Trade Media Briefing in Spain, attended by defenceWeb, said that the military market for transport, special mission and tanker aircraft is a very irregular one with plenty of ups and downs and is compounded by shrinking military budgets, especially in the wake of the global financial crisis. “Last year was a very difficult year for the industry,” said Antonio Rodriguez Barberan, Senior Vice President Commercial. “There are many challenges but with the right products, the right strategy…we’ll get through.”

Airbus Military’s strategy is to offer highly versatile aircraft, as these have the best chance of obtaining market success. Head of Airbus Military Domingo Urena-Raso said that his company’s product line was growing and that despite challenges, Airbus Military remains committed to delivering new aircraft.

Barberan pointed out that although defence budgets were shrinking, militaries were still seeking new transport/tanker aircraft but trying to extract greater value for money by obtaining multipurpose aircraft that were highly reliable and had a high availability rate. “Customers are looking for versatility…they are no longer purely interested in single mission aircraft.”

As a result, Airbus Military is improving its product line (C212, CN235, C295, A400M and A330MRTT) and creating new variants of its aircraft. With regard to continuous improvement, the C295 is benefiting from several structural and manufacturing changes. By the beginning of next year Airbus Military plans to flight test new winglets on the C295, which will reduce drag and improve takeoff, climb and cruise performance.

The company is currently offering customers higher rated engines, which will be certified in the coming months and which increase payload by 1 700 kg at 25 000 ft. The improved Pratt & Whitney engines offer improved operation at high altitudes with minor influence on powerplant maintenance costs.

Other improvements on the C295 include the addition of the Marte anti-ship missile (to be flight tested in the third quarter of this year), the addition of a head up display, the addition of an onboard inert gas generation system (to be flight tested in the fourth quarter) and a third generation Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS) mission suite, which is also compatible with other Airbus Military mission platforms. In addition, a streamlined production process saves around 30 hours on the construction of a C295.

Airbus Military touted the versatility of its CN295 and CN235 aircraft, which are offered as maritime patrol aircraft or for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions with palletised sensors. The company is also offering aerial spraying and air-to-air refuelling equipment for its products.

New developments include the C295 AEW platform, being developed as a low cost airborne early warning aircraft in conjunction with IAI, which is developing the radar. Airbus Military is in discussion with three potential customers for this version and will speed up development once an initial customer is found. The radar will be an active electronically scanned array (AESA) unit, able to cover 360 degrees.

In addition, Airbus Military is offering a gunship variant to potential customers. One variant will feature removable equipment such as an electro-optical/infrared targeting turret, 30 mm cannon and other optional weapons depending on customer specifications, such as missiles, laser-guided rockets etc. The company is also proposing a dedicated gunship version with its fire control system and weapons integrated with surveillance sensors and mission system.

Part of Airbus Military’s strategy is to focus on emerging markets, including Africa, the Asia-Pacific and Latin America, as budgets are growing in the Middle and Far East. “Africa is going to rapidly start growing, especially regarding light and medium aircraft…So we are going to be in Africa,” Barberan said. “We want to become global. We need to be closer to the customer.” As a result, Airbus Military is opening up new offices around the world, including in Jakarta and Singapore and will shortly be opening up an office in Mexico. In addition, the company is very willing to pursue industrial partnerships with other nations and customers. It has started marketing the A400M overseas and anticipates export orders in the coming years. The A400M has been to Asia and Latin America, while last month the C295 went on a demonstration tour through Africa. South Africa may buy a number of the aircraft to meet its maritime patrol and transport requirements, while Gabon and Ghana may order the type.