Portugal has asked to join the Airbus Military Company (AMC) A400M programme and is seeking to buy four transports. Meanwhile, the European consortium has briefed the Royal Australian Air Force, which has a long-term requirement for transport aircraft.

The move earlier this month marks the country's re-entry into the joint-European programme, of which it was a member in its earlier guise as the Future Large Aircraft. The move will allow the country to become a risk sharing and industrial partner, says AMC. Portugal joins Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK as launch customers and takes the A400M's orderbook to 229.

Australian sources say that AMC briefed the RAAF in Canberra and Sydney in early February. A white paper published in December announced that Australia's 12 Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules would be upgraded by 2008 rather than converting the RAAF C-130J options to firm orders. European and US industrial sources suggest this is already being reconsidered. Another consideration will be the abandonment of Australia's Light Transport Aircraft competition to replace its de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou, which will now serve to 2010.

Meanwhile a draft contract was due to be delivered by AMC to the partner nations in February, with the aim of agreeing a signing at the Paris air show in June.

Source: Flight International