EADS has proposed Airbus A330s to A400M customers requiring interim lift in the wake of further delays to the military transport programme, chief executive Louis Gallois has revealed.
Gallois says that the "bridging solution" suggested by EADS involves a mix of A330s and "other airplanes", which he declines to specify. He notes that A330s, which could be deployed as logistical transports, are already due for delivery to the UK through its Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft programme (artist's impression, below).
Speaking on 12 January, UK defence secretary John Hutton insisted that the UK could not accept a three- to four-year delay to deliveries of its 25 A400Ms, which are needed to replace its aged Lockheed martin C-130K tactical transports. Responding on 13 January, Gallois admitted that he understood Hutton's frustration and shared it. He said that "intensive discussions" are under way with Europe's OCCAR procurement agency and the programme's launch nations, with the UK "fully involved".
Gallois attributes the programme's severe delays to a "complete underestimation of the nature of the programme" on the part not just of EADS, but of suppliers and customers. The A400M (below) had been viewed as a "flying truck" or "normal Airbus", but proved "more complex", he adds.
EADS is now seeking a renegotiated contract that recognises "the military nature of the programme" and the risk involved. Gallois describes the transport as a "military airplane with full military capability", and adds that its complexity outstrips that of the Dassault Rafale or Eurofighter.
Gallois also claims that no military aircraft had ever been developed in less than 10 years, whereas the A400M had been scheduled for delivery within six-and-a-half years of project launch. Unlike the A350, the A400M had required EADS to "start from scratch" with every item.
The EADS chief executive insists that he is "not looking for excuses" and accepts that EADS has "a big share of the responsibility for the underestimation", although it is "not alone" in this.
While acknowledging the need for "a clear, visible time schedule", Gallois was unable to commit to a date for the transport's first flight, saying only that it would happen one month after delivery of the full-authority digital engine control software for its TP400-D6 turboprop engine by Europrop International. He also refused to specify the changes to "technical characteristics" that EADS is proposing to A400M customers, but ruled out any downgrading of the aircraft.
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