A fine sight – now for the orders fight

This article first appeared as a Comment in the 11 June issue of Flight International

Two generations of European industrial collaboration will be seen in close formation during the opening flypast for the 50th Paris air show, with one of the French air force’s soon-to-be-delivered Airbus Military A400Ms to lead the Alpha Jets of the service’s Patrouille de France aerobatic display team over Le Bourget.

Achieving entry into service for the airlifter with the Armee de l’Air before the Bastille Day parade in Paris on 14 July will provide a big lift for the company, its industry partners and the European launch countries.

The airframer is already in talks with several nations for export deals which could come good within the next 18-24 months, by which time first deliveries will also have been made to Turkey, Germany, the UK and Malaysia. But some of the issues which have affected the continent’s Eurofighter programme have also emerged. German and UK budget pressures shaved 10 A400Ms from the launch contract, and Berlin now plans to fly 13 fewer than it has signed for. France has also hinted at needing less than its contracted 50, and Spain’s finances are at odds with a deal for 27.

Small reductions could provide early delivery slots for export buyers, but major cuts will harm prospects. As seen with the Eurofighter in India, uncertainty over core nation intentions repels business.

Airbus Military believes in its product. Now it must battle to keep its launch customers firmly on board.

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