Fact file: Airbus A400M Loadmaster

5855

Designation:
Airbus Military A400M  Loadmaster
Type:    
Medium strategic/tactical transport and aerial refueller.
Country of origin:               
Pan-European. SA joined project as a workshare partner on April 28, 2005.
First flight:                            
Was scheduled for January 2008, delayed; now planned for “late 2008”, or 2009. Prototype rolled out June 26, 2008 at Seville, Spain.  
Delivered to the SAAF:      
From 2010
Associated project name(s):
Continent.
Numbers:             
Eight ordered, six on option. 
Cost:     
R7,438,200,001.88 (2005 Rand, then €837 million) for eight[1], R11.3 billion for 14, €100 million each[2].
Crew:                                    
Pilot, co-pilot & loadmaster.  
Major dimensions & weights
·         Wingspan:                    
·         Length:                           
·         Height:          
·         Wing area:                   
·         Basic empty weight:   
·         Max take-off weight:
·         Max landing weight:  
·         Max internal fuel:      
·         Max external fuel:     
·         Refuelling capacity:
·         Cargo hold length:      
·         Cargo hold width:       
·         Cargo hold height:      
·         Cargo hold volume:   
·         Max cargo weight:     
·         Cargo capacity:          
·         Passengers:  
·         42.4m.
·         42.2m.
·         13.5m to tail.
·         –
·         70mt.
·         130mt.
·         –
·         –
·         –
·         Two wing mounted drogues, suitable for helicopters and fast jets.
·         23.2m.
·         4m.
·         3.85m.
·         356m3.
·         37mt.
·         Nine 88x108inch pallets and 54 troops, two Ratel ICV, one mobile crane or Rooikat armoured car, one dump truck & excavator, one semi-articulated truck with 20ft container, two Agusta A109, or one Oryx (rotor head removed). 
·         116 paratroops with full equipment, 66 stretchers with 25 medics.
Performance
·         Take-off to clear 15m:
·         Landing from 15m:   
·         Rate of climb:               
·         Service ceiling:            
·         Max cruise altitude:   
·         Max operating speed:        
·         Max cruise speed:         
·         Max range at cruise speed:
·         Stall speed:                                              
·         G-loads:                        
·         Wing loading:              
·         Thrust:          
·         Bypass ratio:                                          
·         Thrust/weight ratio:    
·         1371m (4500ft).
·         658m (2250ft).
·         –
·         12 192m (40,000ft).
·         11,278m
·         –
·         780km/h. 
·         4170km with 30mt payload, 6110km with 20mt.
·         –
·         –
·         –
·         .
Engine Specifications
·         Make:                                                   
·         Model:                          
·         Type:                            
·         Number:                       
·         Compression ratio:     
·         Engine diameter:        
·         Engine length:             
·         Dry weight:                  
·         Power turbine rotor speed:
·         Shaft horsepower:      
·         Propeller:      
·          
·         EuroProp International (a Rolls Royce, Snecma Moteurs,
·         MTU Aero Engines and Industria de Tubopropulsores joint venture).
·         TP400-D6.
·         Turboprop.
·         4.
·         –
·         –
·         –
·         –
·         –
·         10 000.
·         Ratier Figeac FH386 with eight composite blades.
Hard points:        
One under each outer wing for a Cobham 908E refueling drogue pod.   
Armament:                          
none.
Other attachments:            
none.
Comment:
Previously known as the Future Large Aircraft, the A400M Loadmaster has been long in the coming. A European Staff Requirement was drawn up as long ago as 1993 but only signed in 2003.
Production was scheduled to start in 2001 with deliveries starting this year (2006), but has slipped to 2007 and 2009 respectively. Airbus argues that modern air forces have insufficient airlift capability – a fact most readily admit – and that they are often forced to supplement the shortfall through the ad hoc lease of commercial outsize freighters – often at a premium and often from dodgy operators flying machines of indeterminable flightworthiness. Alternatively, they are overly dependent on the US Air Force.  
The aircraft was designed, Airbus literature say, to meet the “harmonised requirements of the armed forces of Europe as specified in the ESR”. The literature also notes the procurement of military equipment can “often be an overly cumbersome and bureaucratic process, which can itself contribute to programme risk, delay and cost.”
As a result, Airbus Military is using a methodology borrowed from its commercial sister to keep the project within specification and cost. They have not been entirely successful…
Be that as it may, advanced technology is only being used where its use can clearly demonstrate added value. For this reason fly-by-wire technology is included. Turboprop propulsion was selected as this is known to be 20% cheaper to operate than the equivalent turbofan. Airbus further argues that development cycles in civil aviation is shorter and occur more often than in military programmes. “A civil-based programme is therefore more likely to represent the current state-of-the-art.”
Explaining the choice of size, Airbus explains the A400M “has been sized to have the best balance of cargo load weight and volume. This enables the aircraft to achieve an average per sortie payload of around 70% of total aircraft payload.
Only the A400M matches its maximum payload, and therefore aircraft weight, to the required ‘outsize` volume of today`s modern loads. This is important as an aircraft`s weight largely determines its acquisition and lifetime maintenance costs.” Size-wise the aircraft fills a niche between the Boeing C17 Globemaster III and the Lockheed Martin C130, arguably offering C130-type economy with a C17-type load capability.
The C17 is enormously expensive, each costing the USAF US202.3 million (in constant 1998 dollars)[3].
As a strategic/tactical airlifter, design considerations for the former includes long range, a high cruise speed and a large cargo hold with a high maximum payload. As a tactical transport, it has good short- and soft-field and low speed performance as well as autonomous ground operation.    
               
Airbus believes the aircraft is appropriate for South Africa as the “existing transport fleet of the SAAF does not respond to future airlift requirements”. They add that the present fleet has an inadequate range and payload capability, that cargo hold cross sections are too small for modern loads and that the fleet is unable to perform tactical and strategic missions (Airbus emphasis). They emphasise that the A400Ms large load and volume capability means fewer sorties, its long range fewer stops, its high cruise speed fewer hours, its short & austere airfield capability a greater choice of airheads, its low-level tactical flight enhanced survivability and its autonomous ground operations self reliance.      
The South African Government is keen on the deal as it sees the resultant industrial participation as key to its aviation industry expansion plans. It has been reported that if South Africa bought all 14, it will have the right to supply 7.2% of the value of the about-200 A400M aircraft scheduled to be produced so far.
The Department of Defence 2007/8Annual Report refers to the project as a “Strategic Defence Package,” perhaps indicating its importance. The term has previously been used only for equipment purchased under a 1999 programme.
The report also notes that the aircraft will e assigned to 60 Squadron that previously operated the Boeing B707.         
The numbers are difficult to reject considering Denel`s continued precarious financial position and government`s continued commitment to its survival – motivated as much by the political need to retain jobs as stimulating the hi-tech sector of industry, supporting the military and just plain, old-fashioned pride. “The A400M initiative is truly a lifeline for the SAAF and will, together with future decisions on the transport aircraft mix, rejuvenate the SAAF’s transport capacity,” the Air Force chief Lt Gen Gagiano said in April 2005.
 


[1] SAAF press release, reported on www.saairforce.co.za on June 30, 2005.
[2] Wikipedia, Airbus A400M, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airbus_A400M, accessed on October 23, 2008.
[3] US Air Force Fact Sheet, C17 Globemaster III, http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=86, accessed October 23, 2008.