Airbus shows off new portfolio after restructuring


Airbus Defence and Space is marketing an expanded range of military hardware, from tactical UAVs to fighter jets, under its new guise.

Following restructuring and rebranding effective from the beginning of this year, Airbus Defence and Space brings together several different divisions resulting from the integration of Cassidian and Astrium, namely Military Aircraft, Space Systems, Communication, Intelligence & Security (CIS), and Electronics, which more than doubles its addressable market.

Antonio Barberan, head of commercial at Airbus Military, told journalists attending the annual Trade Media Briefing in Spain this week that the restructured company will bring synergies that will better serve its customers. “Our strategy is to be global leaders in each of the markets we are serving,” he said.

One of these areas is light and medium transport. Airbus started actively marketing the A400M for export in February last year and is targeting an order before the year ends. It has demonstrated the type throughout the world (the A400M was shown to Kazakhstan, Germany and Mexico this year) and has eight or nine requests for information and requests for proposals (RFIs and RFPs). South Africa is one target customer, and Airbus hopes to sell four A400Ms to the South African Air Force as C-130 replacements.

Airbus hopes to capture 50% of the market in which the A400M competes and sell 300-400 A400Ms over the next three decades. Airbus has already developed an ITAR compliant export version that features modified communications and navigation equipment.

France was the first of eight nations to receive the type, in August last year, and has two in service. Apparently the French Air Force is very happy with the A400M, and has deployed the aircraft to Mali and French Guyana. Airbus Defence and Space will deliver 11 more A400Ms this year, including the first to Turkey in April, the first to the UK in September and the first to Germany in November. 22 aircraft will be delivered next year, including the first for Malaysia.

So far the A400M has accumulated 6 343 flight hours in 2 278 flights as part of the flight test campaign. The aircraft is still being refined, and only next year will models be delivered with full aerial delivery, self-defence and tanker capabilities. By 2018, the A400M will be able to perform low level flight, have complete air-to-air refuelling capabilities and perform search and rescue functions, according to Airbus.

The European company also gave journalists an update on the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) programme. 34 aircraft have been ordered and 21 delivered so far and problems with the refuelling boom have been resolved. The model has been selected by Qatar (two) and Airbus is negotiating with France and will be targeting South Korea this year. India has also selected the A330 MRTT over the Ilyushin Il-78 but the recent elections there have slowed down the procurement process, for six aircraft.

The aircraft can be fitted with underwing or underfuselage refuelling pods from Cobham or an Airbus developed boom and can also accept fuel through its own receptacle. 140 000 litres of fuel is stored in the wings and tail, leaving the cabin free for cargo, troops or a VIP interior.

At the moment 19 of 28 ordered A330 MRTTs are in service, with the UK, Australia, UAE and Saudi Arabia, but this month another two will be delivered. Airbus said the type has a 90% air-to-air refuelling mission success rate and a 99% availability rate. So far the 19 aircraft in service have flown over 20 000 hours.

Antonio Caramazana, VP Head of Military Derivatives Programme, said the aircraft is showing very good reliability and availability and he expected to receive contracts from France, India and Qatar in the coming months. France is negotiation for nine aircraft plus three options. Singapore last year ordered six.

Airbus is developing the A330 MRTT Enhanced version, which features improved avionics, a higher takeoff weight, reduced fuel consumption through revised aerodynamics and other changes. Prototype conversion will start in October next year with flight testing in the second half of 2016. All future customers will receive this upgraded configuration when it becomes available in 2017. The Enhanced upgrades can be retrofitted to earlier A330 MRTT versions.

On the light transport side, Airbus has received orders for 20 C295s this year, including three for Ecuador and eight from a country in the Maghreb. The company is continuing to upgrade the model with improved engines and winglets and is developing numerous variants of the transport, from firefighting to gunship.

Another big part of Airbus Defence and Space’s offering is maintenance. Eighteen customers flying 109 aircraft make use of its Full In Service Support (FISS) system, which covers some 40 000 flight hours a year

With the restructured company, Airbus Defence and Space is now responsible for the marketing of the Eurofighter Typhoon. The company said that market opportunities exist for 700 Eurofighters. So far, 406 have been delivered and accumulated over 236 000 flight hours. As the Eurofighter will be the backbone of European air forces for decades to come, the aircraft is being upgraded and improved. Thrust vectoring and conformal fuel tanks are future possibilities. Other additions planned are Harpoon and Martel anti-shipping weapons and a derivative of the Brimstone missile.

Airbus Defence and Space is promoting a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles, with payloads from 1 kg to several tons. Barberan said that this is perhaps not a label Airbus Military wanted but has it now and is going to be a world leader in this field in the coming years.

Barberan said that in the coming years, medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) UAVs would be where the money stands, especially if UAVs are allowed to fly in civilian airspace. Once this happens, he predicts the market will grow exponentially.

Airbus Defence and Space has experience operating the Harfang and Heron I UAVs, which have been deployed to Afghanistan and Mali. More than 18 000 flight hours have been accumulated in Afghanistan and the Harfang has reached over 10 000 hours in 900 flights in Mali with the French Air Force. French Harfangs will be upgraded by Airbus Defence and Space for service to at least 2018.

With an eye to the future, Airbus has launched several technology programmes, such as the Barracuda, Sagitta and Optionally Piloted Vehicles, and is developing the MALE 2020 project with Dassault and Finmeccanica. Airbus has also developed the ISIS mission system for the controversial Eurohawk.

Aimed mainly at the commercial market, Airbus is developing the Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS), which can stay aloft for weeks and is aimed at being a cost effective alternative to satellites. The aircraft weighs 100 kg and can fly at altitudes of 12-25 km using its electrically driven propellers. First flight was in August last year. Jens Nielsen, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems, said there was high interest from the communications sector since the aircraft is able to permanently provide low earth coverage. However, payload is limited to 5 kg with the current Zephyr 7 but the Zephyr 8, under development, will be able to carry several times that.

Domingo Urena-Raso, Head of Military Aircraft, cautioned journalists that European, and North American, nations were unlikely to order much defence equipment over the next five years as they deal with restrictive budgets. He believed the market will remain quite critical. However, he noted that while Europe will continue to struggle with defence budgets, the major market has shifted to Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Guy Martin attended the 2014 Trade Media Briefing in Spain as a guest of Airbus Defence and Space.