Twelve EU nations back military airlift initiative

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Twelve European Union nations have voiced their willingness to collaborate on or pool their military air transport assets within the next decade, with the Airbus Military A400M and Lockheed Martin C-130 to provide the backbone of the proposed system.

Outlined earlier this month by the European Defence Agency, the touted European Air Transport Fleet (EATF) would bring together assets operated by the air forces of Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.

Five of the nations will receive 145 of the 180 A400Ms currently on order for seven European countries, and the EDA expects several of these to form a multinational unit for operations with the type.

a400m 
© EADS

Citing "a clear lack of European military airlift capabilities" to respond to military and civilian contingencies for individual nations, the EU and NATO, the 12 partners "intend to develop concrete solutions to better use existing and future military airlift assets".

A framework document signed by the nations states: "The pooling of some of our assets and the use of contributions in kind will help us to decrease our dependency on civilian lift and maximise our investment in military airlift assets."

A letter of intent will be prepared for signature by mid-2009, with the EDA now inviting other EU member states to join. The proposed EATF structure is planned to achieve initial operational capability "by the next decade", it adds.

Six of the proposed EATF participants are already members of the European Air Group structure, which provides for the exchange of air transport services between the militaries of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

Lead A400M stakeholder EADS has meanwhile announced a third quarter charge of €341 million ($432 million) linked to the delayed programme. The company blames development problems on "the unavailability of a committed and reliable schedule for the [Europrop International TP400-D6] propulsion system", plus "unresolved issues with certain equipment supplies" and systems integration difficulties.

We are conducting ambitious efforts to tackle both the industrial and commercial challenges in discussion with our customers and suppliers," says EADS chief executive Louis Gallois, who adds that the company is "more determined than ever to get this complex programme under control".