Airbus Military and Lockheed Martin were promoting their respective airlift capabilities at the Singapore air show, saying that the Asia-Pacific region will continue to require cargo aircraft due to its unique circumstances.
The future of the Airbus A400M remains in limbo, with the company's parent EADS threatening to scrap the airlifter amid ongoing negotiations with its seven European launch customers about additional funding to keep the programme on track.
Airbus Military A400M
Peter Scoffham, Airbus Military vice-president defence capability marketing, declines to comment on the negotiations. However, he says that the programme is on track with a second aircraft due to begin flight tests shortly. Scoffham adds that the aircraft is essential as airlift requirements evolve, especially in Asia where Malaysia remains the A400M's sole export customer.
"Existing platforms have done a good job over the last 50 years and they will continue to do so for a while longer. However, the requirements are changing as countries need larger aircraft that can transport essential equipment into tactical environments. That is especially true in Asia," he says.
"In South-East Asia in recent months, we have seen devastating typhoons in the Philippines, flooding in Vietnam and an earthquake in Sumatra. There is a need for airlift to go to these places quickly, and that is why so many countries are interested in the aircraft."
Lockheed, which claims it is close to securing an order for four C-130Js from an undisclosed Asian country, says that it had inadvertently benefited from the delays to the A400M.
"There are only two partners in the A400M programme that we are not talking to right now," says Jack Crisler, Lockheed Martin's director for business development. These customers are looking at the C-130J for interim lift, and Lockheed has also held discussions with South Africa, which has cancelled its orders for the A400M.
The company has won a tender with the unnamed Asian country and should complete negotiations and sign a deal ""in the coming months", he adds. Lockheed Martin has a backlog of 95 C-130s, but it is still able to offer 2013 delivery slots, he adds.