Airbus is bringing A330 Freighter assembly to Mobile, but only if they get the tanker. This story broke on Friday when it was first reported by George Talbot of the Mobile Press Register. The on-going battle between Airbus and Boeing ratchets up another notch with this new development from EADS and Airbus.
There are important questions that come along with this, mainly, what happens if Northrop Grumman and EADS don't get (at least part) of the contract? With the A350 coming down the line, there is a finite amount of production capacity in Toulouse. Airbus says that the A330 is a complimentary product to the A350 and the production equation has to balance out eventually. This has the potential to soften the Euro-Zone pain Airbus and EADS have been enduring, so A330F production may be coming to the US after all if the tanker goes to Boeing.
Much more on this as the day progresses.
Image Courtesy Airbus SAS
Airbus A330 Freighters to be Assembled at Mobile, Alabama Facility
Mobile, Alabama; Arlington, Virginia, January 14, 2008 – EADS will co-locate the production of the Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker platform and the Airbus A330 civilian freighter aircraft at its Mobile, Alabama aerospace center of excellence, resulting in a robust final assembly line that ensures low risk, high efficiency and increased capacity for both military and commercial customers.
This decision – which is dependent on U.S. Air Force selection of Northrop Grumman’s KC-30 Tanker as its new aerial refueling platform – will further leverage EADS’ investment in its future Alabama facility, located on Mobile’s Brookley Field, and significantly increase its industrial presence in the U.S. market.
Both the KC-30 Tanker and A330 commercial freighter are based on the best-selling, industry-favored Airbus A330 twin-engine jetliner. Co-locating production of these aircraft will add to the efficiency of the Mobile assembly facility, and ensure a smooth and continuing production flow. It will enable EADS to provide its customers more flexibility in the assignment of final assembly slots at Brookley Field for the military aerial refueling platform or the civilian freighter, depending on demand. The site would be expanded to support the production of up to four aircraft per month, ensuring ready capacity to meet the Air Force’s delivery requirements at no risk, while fulfilling the A330 Freighter’s growing order book which is already at 66 aircraft.
“Today’s announcement is a historic opportunity for Airbus, EADS and for the U.S. aerospace industry,” said Thomas Enders, President and CEO of Airbus and member of the EADS Executive Committee. “Selection of the KC-30 by the U.S. Air Force will not only provide the world’s most capable military tanker, it also will result in the establishment of the first large commercial aircraft assembly facility in the U.S. in over 40 years - and the first such Airbus assembly facility in the U.S. EADS, with Airbus and its other divisions, is already the largest single international customer for U.S. aerospace products. This significant investment would effectively transform EADS and Airbus into a second U.S.-based producer and exporter of large commercial aircraft.”
As the partner and principal subcontractor to Northrop Grumman on the USAF Tanker replacement program, EADS will be responsible for assembling KC-30 Tanker airframes and providing completed, flight-qualified aircraft to Northrop Grumman, which will militarize the aircraft, outfit the mission equipment and deliver this most advanced weapon system to the U.S. Air Force.
“This investment decision - along with our earlier selection of Mobile, Alabama as the site of the KC-30 Tanker final assembly facility, the Airbus Engineering Center and the EADS CASA facility at Mobile Regional Airport - reflects EADS’ firm commitment to the future of the American aerospace industry, the security of the United States, and our longstanding intention to create jobs and in-source industrial capability, advanced products and critical technologies into the United States,” said EADS North America Chairman and CEO Ralph D. Crosby, Jr.
“Although the Air Force has yet to select its next refueling aircraft, EADS’ commitment to Alabama reaffirms that we continue to attract world-class companies to this great state,” Alabama Governor Bob Riley said. “If successful in the KC-30 tanker competition, this new final assembly line will be an important addition to Alabama and the Gulf Coast’s growing aerospace and high-technology industries. Equally important, this commitment by EADS and Airbus strengthens the broader aerospace industry and reintroduces domestic competition into the U.S. large aircraft market.”
To accommodate the A330 Freighter industrial activity, the KC-30 production center would be expanded by 20% to a total covered area of 2 million-sq.-ft, and would require at least 300 direct additional employees above the 1,000 currently slated for the tanker assembly. Depending on when the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation tanker aircraft decision is made, it is possible that construction of the combined final freighter assembly line could begin in late 2008.
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby stated, “Alabama is setting the standard for creating robust economic growth, diversifying our economic base and creating high value jobs that are competitive in today’s global business environment. The addition by EADS of A330 commercial freighter assembly to the proposed KC-30 Tanker line is additional evidence that our state’s impressive workforce and economy has the ability to attract world class companies that are committed to America’s defense.”
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions said, “Today’s announcement by EADS and Airbus is further evidence from a world class company that Alabama’s workforce is competitive with that of any in the world. The potential to manufacture commercial freighters in Alabama represents a significant step toward growing the aerospace industry in our state, resulting in new, high-paying jobs. Competitive businesses do not make these decisions lightly, and I am pleased that EADS continues to see that Alabama is a great place to do business in the global market.”
Jo Bonner, U.S. Representative from Alabama’s 1st District said, “The Mobile community and South Alabama are pleased and excited to once again showcase our great state and its resources to the aerospace industry, our nation and the world. Our skilled workers are ready to meet the challenges and demands of both the KC-30 Tanker and the 21st century global competition of large commercial aircraft.”
The A330 Freighter was launched in January 2007 in response to worldwide demand for a modern, mid-sized cargo aircraft with excellent range and payload capacity. In the past 12 months, 66 A330 Freighters have been ordered by operators and leasing companies in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
To date, more than 900 A330 aircraft have been sold, including the military tanker/transports, the A330 Freighter aircraft, and civilian airliners for domestic and international carriers. The A330 family’s production rate is being further accelerated to meet this growing order volume. A total backlog of some 400 aircraft guarantees long-term manufacturing and support for this popular and technologically advanced aircraft.