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Good times for C-27J, but C-17 and A400M remain in doldrums

The military transport sector has been dominated this year by Alenia Aeronautica's victory in the US Air Force/Army Joint Cargo Aircraft competition with the C-27J Spartan, continued uncertainty over the long-term prospects for Boeing's C-17 production line, and consistently bad news related to the Airbus Military A400M project.

Alenia North America's receipt of the $2 billion, 78-aircraft JCA deal with L-3 Communications and Boeing has survived an appeal to the US Government Accountability Office from Raytheon, which had offered EADS Casa's C-295. The confirmation gives the Spartan a competitive edge over its long-time rival, which has this year secured orders for an additional seven C-295s plus five options from Chile, Poland and Spain.

Boeing continues to garner support from within US Congress to build additional C-17s for the USAF beyond its current commitment for 190 of the strategic transports, but production uncertainty has failed to create an expected late export rush for the type. The UK earlier this year ordered a sixth example, but NATO has yet to sign for its planned pooled fleet of four.

The A400M has suffered the same development woes as its commercial stablemate the Airbus A380 this year, and in mid-November was the cause of an almost €1.4 billion ($2 billion) charge for EADS, which had the previous month confirmed a delivery delay of up to one year for the military transport, largely linked to problems with its Europrop International TP400-D6 engines.

Chile has already opted against waiting for the A400M, and while no major competitions have been missed because of the delay, any continuation of the recent project turmoil will hurt export prospects, which could include the USA.

Lockheed Martin has meanwhile secured a fresh export deal to supply four C-130Js to Norway from early 2008, and India has shown interest in a six-aircraft deal worth $1 billion. Lockheed recently proposed a new multi-year procurement deal to the US Department of Defense, which if accepted would assist future exports of the type.

New players are also looking to break the military transport dominance of Boeing, EADS and Lockheed, with Brazil's Embraer working on a rival to the C-130 dubbed the C-390. The concept is understood to have attracted interest from several nations and the Brazilian postal service.

 

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