France's defence procurement agency DGA sees first deliveries of the Airbus Military A400M to the French air force taking place within the revised timetable while hinting that the military transport's already delayed first flight may slip further.

EADS in January said the A400M should be ready to fly by the end of July. But DGA chief executive Francois Lureau, presenting the agency's 2007 activities in Paris, referred to a first flight in October.

He insisted the DGA has received no indication from Airbus Military of further delays to the programme, which he said is "still within the parameters" most recently set out by the company. Lureau said his "natural pragmatism" leads him to expect a first flight in "late summer", as opposed to the estimate of "summer" given by Airbus Military.

He still expects the French air force to take delivery of its first aircraft between April and October 2010. The air force was originally due to receive its aircraft from October 2009, but in October EADS confirmed the programme was six months late, with the risk of further slippage of up to half a year.

"Airbus has been very busy these last few years - perhaps the A400M has not benefited from all the attention that it needed," Lureau said.

Although "discussions between [A400M procurement agent] OCCAR and Airbus Military are taking place all the time", specific negotiations on penalties will begin once the first deliveries have been made and the extent of the delays is known, he said, adding: "Let's start with the deliveries and then we'll see."