Airbus Defence & Space is confident it can sell more C295s in Latin America – to new and existing customers – after demonstrating the light tactical transport is an aircraft for all seasons.
Late last year, the European company and the Mexican Navy jointly toured one of the latter’s C295s around the region, taking it from the hot and high climate of La Paz in Bolivia, through Amazonian rainforests and to Antarctica.
“It was an opportunity to show the aircraft’s performance in all these environments,” says Eduardo Pérez Valverde, Airbus’s head of military aircraft in Latin America. “The aircraft flew 100 hours in one month with zero incidents or defects.”
Airbus Defence & Space has sold 41 C295s in the region, with 38 in service. As well as Mexico, major customers include Brazil, which has 12 in operation and three on order. The latter, ordered in 2014, are in search and rescue configuration for the air force.
Customers include Colombia, Equador and Chile, which operates three anti-submarine variants. Equador, the newest C295 operator, signed a deal for three aircraft in 2014 under a pay-by-the-hour arrangement with Airbus and took delivery of its final aircraft last year.
More deals could be in the offing at or following FIDAE. “We cannot make public specific tenders but we are working actively in all the C295 countries,” says Pérez Valverde, who notes “Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina are also very interested”.
Airbus Defence & Space has been active in Latin America for 30 years, entering the market under its previous guise as Spanish aerospace champion CASA. It has sold around 60 of its oldest type, the C212, with around 50 still in service. There are also around 20 of the larger CN235s in operation, from around 25 delivered.
Airbus will not have its A400M flagship at FIDAE this year, after the four-engined turboprop made its show debut four years ago. While Pérez Valverde is reluctant to describe them as “campaigns”, he says the company regards Mexico, Chile and Colombia as “prospects”.
Chile and Colombia have been linked with the Embraer KC-390 – Chile is an industrial partner in the programme – but Pérez Valverde does not regard the Brazilian transport as a direct rival to the A400M. “First of all, it’s a jet so it cannot have all the tactical applications that a turboprop has,” he says. “Secondly, it is much smaller than the A400M, more the size of a [Lockheed Martin] C-130. We don’t see it as a direct competitor, but, at the end of the day, the budget is the budget,” he concedes.
Latin America, including Chile, is also a major market for the other side of Airbus Defence & Space’s activities – the former Astrium space business.
The Chilean Earth observation satellite system, FASat Charlie, built by Airbus Defence & Space and the most powerful in Latin America, has been in orbit for four years. The company has also been selected as prime contractor to develop, manufacture and launch the first Earth observation optical satellite system for Peru – due to go into orbit in the third quarter – as well as to set up a ground station.
“Space is really developing fast in Latin America, and our assets, based on industrial partnership, co-operation, capacity building and track record are unique worldwide,” says Christophe Roux, head of Airbus Defence & Space in Latin America.