Airbus Defence and Space is still hopeful South Africa will buy A400M strategic transport aircraft and is promoting it and the C295 light transport to the South African Air Force (SAAF).
According to Antonio Rodriguez-Barberan, Vice President Commercial at Airbus Military, the company is “absolutely interested” in offering the A400M as a replacement for the SAAF’s C-130 Hercules, which are due to be retired in 2020. “We want to be back in South Africa. Yes, there is a need for maritime patrol and a certain need for tactical and strategic transport.”
He told defenceWeb Airbus is keeping its work packages with Denel and Aerosud in place not just because they do a good job manufacturing A400M components but because Airbus is hoping for an order from South Africa. Airbus kept South Africa’s A400M workshare in place even after the government cancelled an order for eight A400Ms in 2009. Denel and Aerosud manufacture parts for the A400M, including the wing to fuselage fairing and other large components.
Barberan said South Africa has a need for an aircraft like the A400M, especially since its diplomatic and regional ambitions require it to move cargo and equipment to places like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for peacekeeping missions or to places like Sudan for humanitarian missions. Rather than chartering aircraft like the An-124 and Il-76, an A400M could fly supplies directly to where needed most, even if only an unprepared airstrip is available.
He said the A400M was not competing on price but on capability terms. Barberan estimated South Africa would need four A400Ms as a first step to establishing a modern airlift facility.
The first export production slots for the A400M will become available in 2017 and it will be around three years after an order is placed that aircraft could be delivered so if South Africa is to retire the C-130 in 2020, it needs to make a decision within the next few years.
Barberan said he hoped to have an A400M export customer by the end of this year. Airbus began actively promoting the aircraft for export last year and hopes to sell between 300 and 400 on the export market over the next 30 years, capturing a 50% market share.
Airbus is also promoting the CN235/C295 to the SAAF to meet its maritime surveillance requirements. The company brought out a C295 in 2012, which was demonstrated to the local air force. However, Barberan could not say when the SAAF might place an order for a new maritime surveillance platform, especially as funding is problematic. His company is aiming to sell the maritime patrol variant to South Africa, which features sensors such as a radar and electro-optical pods as well as a roll on/roll off mission suite that would allow the aircraft to be used purely in the cargo role as well.
Guy Martin is in Spain as a guest of Airbus Defence and Space.