France, UK to agree joint A400M support deal

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France and the UK have agreed to pursue a joint contract for the full in-service support of their future inventories of A400M transports, Airbus Military has revealed.

Now in negotiation, the performance-based deal has been in discussion for more than three years, says Richard Thompson, the company's senior vice-president customer services.

"The philosophy for the in-service support will be very similar for both nations, moving from traditional product support to helping with urgent operational requirements, upgrades and role changes," he says. Airbus will guarantee spares availability under the incentivised contract, and also provide heavy maintenance work "right up to the frontline".

 
© Airbus Military

Thompson says Airbus will "quickly aim for civil-type dispatch reliability rates" with the A400M, and cites a goal of around 98%. "It's a fairly tough target, but we're confident we can make it," he says. The company will also guarantee the maximum number of "down hours" that an individual aircraft will require for maintenance per year, and is targeting a figure half that for Boeing's C-17 strategic transport.

France has ordered 50 A400Ms and the UK 25, although the latter has signalled its intention to reduce its offtake by up to three.

 
© Airbus Military
The French air force will receive 50 A400M transports from late 2012

Airbus is meanwhile waiting for Germany's BWB procurement agency to reopen the process to select an in-service support provider for its A400Ms. This was earlier postponed as a result of programme delays that will see the German air force's first of up to 60 transports accepted in 2013, rather than later this year.

"We are still in regular discussions, and await a new procurement process," Thompson says. This could be conducted as a competitive deal or under a sole-source agreement, he adds.

Berlin is thought likely to acquire its own spares for the aircraft, although Thompson says it could instead opt to pool resources with France and the UK, and potentially with additional operators such as Spain and Turkey. "If you pool there are economies of scale," he notes, "but if you go a separate way you're going to pay more."

Thompson says securing such logistics deals on the A400M will contribute to Airbus's "Vision 2020" target to boost its current support activities from 10% of its overall business to around 25% within the next 10 years.