There are three strands to EADS's military transport business: the Airbus Military A400M airlifter, with 180 aircraft on order for seven European nations; the EADS Casa range of light and medium transports; and specialist conversions of Airbus passenger aircraft. The Military Transport Aircraft division is headed by the sole Spaniard and representative of Casa on the EADS executive committee, Francisco Fernandez Sainz.

Military transport has been given its own standalone business within EADS for two reasons. Firstly, the transport market is specialist and important enough to warrant its own division (although with revenues of €934 million in 2003 it is by far the smallest). The second reason is more political: it was felt necessary to give the Spanish arm of EADS its "own" specialist organisation. The A400M programme - although technically part of Airbus (Flabel of Belgium, Turkey's TAI and EADS itself are minority shareholders in the Airbus Military company) - is included in Military Transport for accounting purposes. The 180- aircraft order is worth €20 billion to EADS. The first slice of revenue from the A400M - just under €300 million - made up roughly a third of the division's sales in 2003. The aircraft's final assembly line in Seville, Spain will go on stream next year and deliveries will begin in 2009.

Sainz is upbeat about the prospects for the A400M. "For the first time in 30 years, Europe has the opportunity to define the specifications of a large transport aircraft and challenge the USA," he says. "It is a chance to beat the USA and replace its products with a heavy transport aircraft for the next 40 years." He does not rule out exporting the aircraft, even into EADS's competitors' home markets. "It is not crazy to think that we can sell the A400M in the USA," he says, although he admits orders from Norway and Sweden are more likely in the short term.

The division offers three Spanish-built light and medium transports - the C-212, CN-235 and C-295 - with over 700 in service with 100 operators. One notable transatlantic success has been the selection of the CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft by the US Coast Guard for its Lockheed Martin-led Deepwater programme: the first two aircraft were delivered last year. The division also secured orders for its new, medium C-295 from the Polish air force and United Arab Emirates navy.

Military Transport Aircraft also markets tanker and transport versions of Airbus's existing airliners, and EADS is determined to become a serious player in this market. The UK took the decision to negotiate only with the EADS-led Airtanker consortium offering Airbus A330s for its Future Strategic Transport Aircraft programme, but has still not signed an agreement for the lease of up to 20 aircraft. Sainz expects a deal "at the end of this year or early next or middle of next year, pessimistically." EADS was also selected to provide five tankers to Australia, while the USA - where the air force's planned lease deal with Boeing hangs in limbo - remains a highly lucrative opportunity, albeit an unlikely one. Sainz, however, is bullish. "Now is the time to attack the USA," he says. The era of Boeing being the sole provider of commercial platforms for military applications is over, he adds. "Now we have the products and the capability."

Source: Flight International