Airbus Military A400M head Domingo Urena says he sees an export market for at least 500 of the aircraft – in addition to the 184 currently on order. Urena also said Airbus plans to begin production of the military transport aircraft at the end of this year, after winning additional financial aid for the programme from customer governments.
The first four planes would be built in 2013, with eight more scheduled for the following year, said head of the A400M programme, Bloomberg reports. Airbus plans to produce two A400Ms monthly by 2016, and it will have the capacity to boost that rate to 2.5 if necessary, Urena says.
The first A400M will be delivered to France in 2013. Britain and Germany will follow. Urena adds his company will produce four A400Ms in 2013 and eight in 2014. 2015 will be a transitional year on the way to series production of 24 planes from 2016.
Since the debut take off in Spain in December, Airbus had performed 10 test flights, he added in comments made in Paris.
Urena says Airbus hopes to sell up to 200 A400M to the United States, home to the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules and Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transporters. But he said EADS would not rush into an export campaign, giving first priority to stabilising the troubled programme for domestic European buyers. The A400M has been hit by delays and cost overruns, forcing European nations to step in with a 3.5 billion euro bailout including 1.5 billion to be repaid from future exports.
Urena declined to say whether EADS would partner with US builder Northrop Grumman in any A400M export drive to the United States, saying Northrop was a reference point for EADS but “not the only one”, Reuters reports. The two companies last year won a bid to build Airbus A330 aerial tankers for the US, but the deal was later set aside.
French trade minister Anne-Marie Idrac last week reportedly discussed SA’s cancellation of the purchase of eight A400M with public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan. The content of those discussions are not known. SA in 2005 signed up as risk-sharing partner in the production of the transporters. SA’s cancellation of the purchase means Airbus can cancel workshare allocated to Denel Saab Aerostructures, Aerosud, Omnipless and Saab Grintek. However, Urena also yesterday said “these contracts would be fulfilled.” It is not clear if this refers to the first 184 aircraft only or also to the mooted 500 exports.