Airbus Military offering C295, A400M to South Africa


Airbus Military is currently engaged in talks with South Africa over the possible sale of C295 light transport aircraft, and believes there is also room for its A400M heavy airlifter in the Air Force’s inventory.

“We believe we have opportunities in South Africa,” said Rafael Tentor, head of light and medium aircraft at Airbus Military. C295 talks are “in progress”, with the South African campaign “in early stages”.

In April last year Airbus brought a C295 to South Africa where it was evaluated by the Air Force, as part of an African tour for the transport. The South African Air Force (SAAF) is currently looking to buy new maritime surveillance aircraft to replace its ageing C-47TPs under Project Saucepan. Airbus Military is offering the C295 for both maritime surveillance and transport requirements.

Even if the South African Air Force does purchase C295s, it still has a need for the larger A400M, according to Tentor. “South Africa quit the A400M programme but we believe the requirements are still there,” he told defenceWeb. These sentiments were echoed by Domingo Ureña-Raso, CEO of Airbus Military, who told defenceWeb that South Africa originally chose to buy the A400M after carefully considering all other alternatives. If South Africa does purchase the A400M, it could receive aircraft from 2016. (The SAAF plans to keep its C-130BZ Hercules fleet in service until 2020.)

Tentor noted that the industry created through South Africa’s initial A400M order is still there with Denel Aerostructures and Aerosud. After the government cancelled the A400M order, Airbus left the workshare packages in South Africa. Ureña-Raso said that the workshare was left in place because “sooner or later” South Africa would need heavy transport aircraft. “We are very happy with Denel,” he added, which produces a number of components for the A400M, including the wing to fuselage fairing.

Tentor said that South Africa is a candidate for the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) as it will have a requirement for tankers in the future. “South Africa engages in exercises and needs to deploy fighters,” he said. The SAAF recently deployed four Gripens to the Central African Republic (CAR) region following the Battle in Bangui in late March. However, Tentor told dfenceWeb that Airbus Military has not offered MRTTs to South Africa yet.

The MRTT could also double as a VIP aircraft, as it can be fitted with a VIP kit. Airbus Military is currently exploring the option of fitting one of the UK’s MRTTs with the VIP kit. The South African defence ministry has allocated funding this financial year for the purchase of a new VIP aircraft.

Elsewhere in Africa, Tentor said that new markets are increasing in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cameroon recently ordered a single CN235 while it appears that Ghana will most likely order additional C295s and operate them on the United Nations’ behalf under an innovative new scheme. Other prospects for CN235/C295 aircraft Airbus Military highlighted were Gabon and Lesotho.

Ureña-Raso said that it was “fantastic” to receive one or two orders from Africa, as these were “investments for the future,” with follow-up orders likely.

Guy Martin as attending Airbus Military’s Trade Media Briefing 2013 in Seville, Spain, at the company’s invitation.