Spain to operate fewer A400Ms, but seek tanker purchase

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Spain’s air force expects to be able to employ only around half of the A400M tactical transports on order from Airbus Military, but hopes to widen its fleet renewal effort to also introduce a new fleet of A330-based tankers.

“We will receive 27 [A400M] aircraft, but due to budget restrictions we plan to operate and maintain only 14,” Brig Gen Miguel Angel Martin Perez, chief of the service’s planning branch, told SMi’s Military Airlift conference in Seville on 3 December.

Madrid’s first A400M is due to be delivered in January 2016, followed at a rate of four or five per year for its air force until 2022. Despite the smaller than expected size of the future active fleet, Perez says the service wants to operate the type in a multi-role configuration, featuring defensive aids and satellite communications equipment, and a modular air-to-air refuelling kit.

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Airbus Military

“Our first aircraft will be in SOC2 [standard], which will enable us to use the majority of the A400M’s capabilities,” he says.

Speaking at the same event, Tim Rowntree, director of Europe’s OCCAR procurement agency, confirmed that no discussions have been held between – or requested by – partner nations Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey and the UK to seek a reduction to the A400M programme’s 170-unit development and production contract.

Meanwhile, Perez says the Spanish air force hopes to acquire three A330 multi-role tanker transports from Airbus Military, with these to represent its contribution to a proposed pooled fleet being eyed by the European Defence Agency. To also be suitable for national VIP transport tasks, the type would provide a replacement for the air force’s current Boeing 707s, although no funding has yet been allocated for such an order.

The acquisition of a new tanker is one of two top priorities for the Spanish air force, Perez says, with the other being a plan to acquire a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air system capability.

Longer term, the air force would like to acquire a multi-role successor for its existing Airbus Military C295/CN235 medium transports, with Perez identifying capabilities including airborne early warning and electronic warfare as potential applications beyond the airlift role.

“With the same platform, this this aircraft must be able to cope with different configurations and roles,” he says.