Industry is hoping to formally begin development in the next few months of the Airbus Military (AM) A400M airlifter and MBDA Meteor long-range air-to-air missile following Germany's decision to fund both programmes in its latest defence budget released last week.

Procurement numbers for both programmes and many others, however, will be cut as Germany slashes spending, says defence minister Peter Struck. Unconfirmed reports suggest €6 billion ($6 billion) will be cut to 2006.

As a result A400M numbers fall from 73 to 60, Meteor will drop from 1,488 to 600 and the BGTIRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile by 562 to 1,250. Numbers for the Eurocopter Tiger and NH Industries NH90 will be reviewed, says Struck. "Eurofighter will be procured as planned," he adds. The number of in-service Panavia Tornado IDS and McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantoms will be reviewed and the organisational structure will be slimmed.

AM sources believe a final A400M go-ahead will be given around the end of the first quarter next year, assuming the budget proposal clears the remaining parliamentary hurdles. Germany's decision means A400M orders will slip to 180-183, depending on whether Portugal decides to order three.

Industry insiders say the contract, signed by the seven A400M nations, will need modifying as it is based on 196 airlifters, although AM did provide prices for 180 aircraft. The AM source says meetings between the company and the multinational OCCAR procurement agency are expected this year.

MBDA also expects meetings this year between the company and the UK Defence Procurement Agency, which is managing the Meteor programme on behalf of the six partner nations. A contract could be signed early next year.

It is understood that as a result of Berlin's move workshare will be adjusted, with around 5% of Germany's portion handed to the UK.

One company source says MBDA has already ploughed €110 million into the programme to fund initial development work, which will limit in-service date slippage.

Source: Flight International