By Murdo Morrison at Farnborough air show

NATO has asked Airbus Military for proposals to allow a group of countries unable to fund large airlifters to pool the ownership of A400Ms.

Although still at the exploratory stage, the scheme could take a similar approach to the SALIS (Strategic Airlift Interim Solution) programme, where 15 NATO countries, which commit to using a certain number of hours, have access to Antonov An-124s. That three-year scheme is designed to fill a capacity gap before A400M deliveries begin early next decade.

Speaking at an EADS pre-Farnborough seminar near Bath, Richard Thompson, Airbus Military's senior vice-president commercial, said several NATO countries - including Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic - could be interested in pooling use of around eight A400Ms.

The company has capacity on its Seville-based final production line to deliver to new customers from 2010, when the first French aircraft go into service.

So far, two export customers, Malaysia and South Africa with four and eight aircraft respectively, have ordered the A400M, in addition to launch customers Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK. Airbus Military has 192 orders in total, but Thompson says there is a market for another 201 aircraft in 33 countries. This excludes China, Russia and the USA and other "non-accessible" states.

Source: Flight International