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A400M contract amendment signed, as test fleet passes 1,400 flight hours

Airbus Military's A400M programme has received a key boost, with the 7 April signature of a contract amendment on the behalf of its seven European customers. The development comes as flight-testing of the transport has passed 1,400h in almost 450 sorties.

Signed in Seville, Spain by Airbus Military chief executive Domingo Ureña and Patrick Bellouard, director of Europe's OCCAR procurement agency, the agreement clears the way for the production of a combined 170 aircraft. It also finalises the revised terms of a framework agreement made by the governments of Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK on 5 March 2010 to proceed with the delayed project.

EADS chief executive Louis Gallois welcomed the contract signature, citing the A400M as a "co-operation programme that represents a strategic capacity for Europe and its defence, and for the new generation of military transport worldwide."

Four development aircraft are now involved in flight-test activities being staged from San Pablo airport near Seville and Toulouse, France. Roughly 500 flight hours have been accumulated by the fleet since early November 2010, with recent achievements having included making dry contacts with a Royal Air Force Vickers VC10 tanker and the completion of low-speed take-off tests (below).

© Airbus Military

"We are very satisfied with the progress of the flight-test programme," says Ureña, who adds that the industrial programme is "on track" to deliver its first aircraft to launch operator the French air force in late 2012 or early 2013. The service had originally been due to accept its first example in October 2009.

Meanwhile, the programme's fifth and last development aircraft is scheduled to make its first flight "in early fall", says Airbus Military. Work on MSN6 has already been completed on its San Pablo final assembly line.

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