Maritime patrol business boosts transport sales

Madrid
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With its modern day position as the cornerstone of its parent company’s Military Transport Aircraft division, EADS Casa is responsible for delivering a diverse portfolio of airlift products, ranging from the C-212, CN-235 and C-295, and from late this year for also conducting final assembly of the Airbus Military A400M. Increasingly, the unit is also being looked on as a developer of tanker/transport derivatives of commercial Airbus products and for supplying affordable maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) solutions, either through modifying its own products or by upgrading legacy aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion.

“When EADS was founded CASA was very much based on maybe two lines of products: military transports and aerostructures”, says Rafael Acedo, its senior vice-president for military transport aircraft programmes. “Since then we have added some segments like maritime patrol and we have managed to get some growth.” The company is involved in numerous maritime patrol projects, including upgrading P-3s for Brazil and Spain and two CN-235s for the Irish Air Corps under a recently announced deal. The company now sells around 25-30% more aircraft because of its maritime patrol activities, says Acedo.

EADS Casa has within the last few months secured fresh contracts to produce MPA for Portugal and Venezuela, although the status of its deal with the latter is in doubt due to a US block on the sale (Flight International, 14-20 December 2005). Worth €270 million ($320 million), the sale of 12 C-295s to Portugal includes the provision of three EADS Casa-developed Fully Integrated Tactical System maritime patrol payloads – another contributor to its success in the MPA sector.

The company declines to comment on its impasse with the US administration over a $590 million contract to supply Venezuela with 10 C-295 transports plus six options and two CN-235 MPA. It is, however, believed to be seeking a political resolution, with the replacement of US-sourced equipment including avionics and engines worth around $4 million per aircraft deemed to be not cost-effective. EADS says it has already received an assurance from Washington that its Venezuelan deal will have no impact on its prospects in campaigns under way in the USA, such as for a replacement for some of the US Air Force’s Boeing KC-135 tankers. The company is also pursuing a deal for more than 100 tactical transport aircraft to meet a potentially joint US Army/Air Force requirement for light cargo aircraft. A request for proposals for the latter requirement is anticipated around the end of this month.

EADS Casa’s first CN-235 MPA for the US Coast Guard’s Deepwater programme is meanwhile due to be rolled out later this month. The company received an initial contract for two CN-235s, and a third airframe was added last year. “The budget in the coastguard allows them to contract two more aircraft this year – we hope within the coming months,” says Acedo. He says the programme is moving slower than an expected rate of four or five aircraft a year, but notes: “The original programme was developed around the number of 35 aircraft. We have no indication the programme will be reduced.”

Acedo says CN-235 and C-295 production totals around 15-17 aircraft a year, but that this rate is expected to increase over the next few years due to its current campaigns. The company intends to continue promoting the C-295 for many more years, with a continuous development strategy similar to that pursued with the smaller C-212, which Francisco Fernandez Sainz, president of EADS in Spain and head of its Military Transport Aircraft division, describes as the company’s Land Rover. “In Africa and other parts of the world, prospects for the C-212 are very good,” he says.

The company has no plan to add a new product to its portfolio, because, says Acedo, “in the near future we have the challenge of introducing into service the A400M. Our aim is to keep leading military transport aircraft activities in Europe for years and to get the maximum share of the market. With the incorporation of the A400M we have a wide scope of products going from 3-37t – that’s enough for the time being.”

CRAIG HOYLE / MADRID