The UK remains committed to the A400M, "but not at any cost", according to the government's response to a parliamentary committee report.

"Defence equipment 2009", a report of the House of Commons Defence Committee, had asked the government if there was "a real risk that the entire A400M project might be so delayed that abandonment would be preferable".

In its response to the report, the government noted indications from Airbus Military that the A400M's first flight would occur "no later than February 2010". Given a slowing of Airbus's production plans and the six-month lag between first delivery (to France) and first UK delivery, the Royal Air Force could not receive the military transport aircraft before 2013 or put it into service before 2014.

Airbus Military A400m

"We are currently considering all potential outcomes and are supporting actions within OCCAR and with partner nations that help inform our position," says the government.

Among the contingency plans under consideration are an extension to the life of the Lockheed Martin C-130K fleet and the leasing or procurement of additional C-17 and C-130J capacity.

Airbus Military's launch order committed it to deliver its first A400M to the French air force in October 2009, but in January EADS revised this target to around three years after MSN001's flight debut.

"What we are waiting for is for the flight-test campaign to confirm - or not - what we have forecast," Airbus Military managing director Domingo Ureña said on 4 May. "As soon as we get this we will be in a position to relaunch production."

Source: Flight International