EADS North America has offered a plan for the US Air Force to purchase 118 Airbus Military A400Ms using savings made by retiring most of its Lockheed Martin C-130Hs and all its Lockheed C-5As.

Based on standing up about eight squadrons of A400Ms, the proposal was submitted last year following a request from the Air Mobility Command, says Neil Smith, EADS NA's programme director. "We get a very good reception," he adds.

EADS argues that increasingly large ground vehicles have outgrown the C-130's 2.74m (8.9ft)-wide cargo box. The A400M's 3.96m cabin diameter would allow the US Army to load an armoured Stryker vehicle, says Smith.

Lockheed has challenged EADS's cost assumptions for the delayed A400M, noting that it is still in negotiations with its European customers over a reportedly $7 billion cost overrun.

"I think that's the ultimate in fuzzy math," says Jim Grant, Lockheed's vice-president of business development for air mobility and special operations programmes.

EADS NA believes it would need to partner a major US prime contractor to succeed with an A400M proposal, and Smith says it would even consider partnering C-17 manufacturer Boeing. The company could send one of its eventual five test aircraft to the USA in early 2011 for a marketing tour, it adds.

Manufacturing of the Europrop International TP400-D6 turboprop engine could also be performed in the USA under a related concept. EPI consortium member Rolls-Royce already has an engine manufacturing plant in Richmond, Virginia, and Smith says this has the extra capacity to potentially act as a domestic source of production.

Source: Flight International