Airbus Military focusing on African market


Airbus Military expects to sell 70 light and medium military aircraft to Africa over the next decade, as it shifts it focus to the African continent and other emerging markets. Ghana, Cameroon and Gabon are some of the nations that are in the midst of buying new aircraft or are about to sign, whilst South Africa is a leading potential customer for the C295.

Airbus Military said that countries in sub-Saharan Africa will buy 50 light and medium aircraft over the next ten years, and that countries on the whole continent (excluding those in the Middle East) will purchase a total of 70.

Antonio Rodriguez Barberan, Senior Vice President: Commercial at Airbus, told defenceWeb that Airbus was in very preliminary discussions with Ghana for the acquisition of two more C295 transports. Ghana took delivery of its second C295 on April 25 and has a requirement for another two. Barberan said the Ghana Air Force was making good use of its new aircraft, flying them around Africa. Ultimately, it wants to base two transports in the capital Accra and another two in Tamale. Airbus said that Ghana may order another two C295s next year.

In August last year the contract for Ghana’s two C295s was announced, and the first was delivered in November. The C295s are being used for troop transport, medical evacuation, paratrooping, training and humanitarian operations, including United Nations peace missions.

Barberan said that an impending order for CN235s is coming from Cameroon, which recently signed a contract but had problems financing the new aircraft. A few weeks ago Cameroon obtained financing for the order, which will soon be announced by Airbus Military once it is firmed up.

Meanwhile, Gabon is one of several nations interested in acquiring C295s to be operated on behalf of the United Nations. The United Nations has also expressed interest in acquiring the C-295 to replace its old, inefficient Russian aircraft. Last year the UN invited Airbus to demonstrate the C-295 in the DRC, which Airbus duly did in July. Another demonstration took place this year. The United Nations does not own its own aircraft, but operates aircraft leased by contributor nations. Airbus Military, the United Nations and its partner nations are discussing possible procurement of the C-295, with Gabon emerging as a likely customer.

In October 2010 Egypt signed a contract for three C295s, and received its first in September last year. Airbus Military told journalists at its annual Trade Media Briefing in Spain that Egypt this year placed an order for an additional three C295s.

Airbus recently flew a C295 out to Africa for a demonstration tour, showing the aircraft to Kenya and Tanzania, amongst others. At the moment there is “no real interest” in the C295 from African countries following the tour, but Barberan is confident that orders will materialise. During its demonstration tour, Airbus Military demonstrated the C295 to the South African Air Force in April, in the hopes of receiving orders to fulfil its transport and maritime patrol requirements.
“Airbus Military has a long established partnership with South Africa and the SA Air Force. By bringing the C-295 to South Africa, we are able to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities in typical SANDF [South African National Defence Force] mission configurations for tactical transport, medevac, anti-piracy, countersmuggling and Economic Exclusion Zone protection operations,” Barberan said at the time.

On Monday Airbus Military announced that Oman had ordered eight C295s, including five configured as tactical transports and three as maritime patrol aircraft, for delivery in 2013. This setup could be emulated by South Africa, which could acquire the Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS) mission suite for maritime patrol duties. This comprises a search radar, electro-optical/infrared sensor, magnetic anomaly detector and hardpoints for torpedoes and depth charges.

Head of Airbus Military, Domingo Urena-Raso, yesterday told defenceWeb that there are several key countries his company is targeting in Africa, including Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and South Africa. He said that although most African countries order only a few aircraft, when put together Africa offers a very reasonable volume of business.

Urena-Raso said that South Africa is a market for both the C295 as well as the A400M and that even though the South African government cancelled its previous order, the A400M “will come later” to South Africa. Airbus Military recently started marketing the airlifter to foreign countries, and sent it on a sales tour to Asia and Latin America.

After South Africa ordered the A400M, Denel Saab Aerostructures (Denel Aerostructures today) and other local companies began manufacturing components for the aircraft. Urena-Raso said that Airbus Military was satisfied with Denel’s performance and will continue to work with the company as far as they keep performing. In fact, Airbus Military and Denel Aerostructures have negotiated a new contract that will be signed in the coming weeks and will see Denel increase A400M component production.

Total Airbus Military sales in sub-Saharan Africa to the first quarter of this year include two C295s, six CN235s and 42 C212s with 14 customers in 11 countries.

Guy Martin is in France as a guest of Airbus Military and is attending the Trade Media Briefing 2012.