ILA 2008: Airbus delays provide longer window for C-130J

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Though the Airbus A400M military airlifter prototype is on track for a ceremonial rollout on June 26, plans to fly the aircraft “by the end of the summer” will not be achieved, according to Airbus Military sources, who predict that the aircraft will not fly before November.

The failure to fly the A400M on time is widely attributed on delays to the programme to test fly the new TP400 engine on a dedicated Hercules testbed, though there are also understood to be some delays in clearing some parts of the structure. Last year, A400M delays cost Airbus €1.4billion ($2.2b), and further losses are inevitable.

It was originally intended that the A400M would enter service in 2003, attaining operational capability in 2004-2005. The UK RAF’s A400M in-service date has slipped from 2007 to 2011, and other operators face similar delays.

The A400M was designed because the C-130J Hercules did not meet the requirements of NATO customers – primarily because it retained the same basic fuselage cross-section as the ‘Heritage Hercules’, and was slower and shorter-ranged than the planned European lifter.

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But while the A400M remains mired, the much updated and improved C-130J has now overcome its early teething problems and is proving itself in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lockheed Martin delivered the 100th C-130J to the USAF’s 41st Airlift Squadron on April 27.

The C-130J is here at ILA. Although slower than the A400M, with shorter range and a narrower, shorter cargo hold, it does provide a real improvement over ageing C-130Hs now in NATO service, with improved performance, modern Allison AE2100D3 engines driving composite multi-bladed propellers, and a two-crew all-glass cockpit with digital avionics. And it is available and proven now.


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