A400M rollout, Seville
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Airbus’ A400M is a EUR 20+ billion program that aims to repeat Airbus’ civilian successes in the full size military transport market. A series of smart design decisions were made around capacity (35-37 tonnes/ 38-40 US tons, large enough for survivable armored vehicles), extensive use of modern materials, multi-role capability as a refueling tanker, and a multinational industrial program; all of which leave the aircraft well positioned to take overall market share from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. If the USA’s C-17 is allowed to go out of production, the A400M would also have a strong position in the strategic transport market, with only Russian AN-70, IL-76 and AN-124 aircraft as competition. To date, 174 orders have been placed by Germany (now 53 + 7 options), France (50), Spain (27), Britain (now 22), Turkey (10), South Africa (8), Belgium (7), Malaysia (4), and Luxembourg (1). Chile has expressed an unfinalized interest in 3 planes, but is now likely to buy Brazilian KC-390s instead.
EADS’ biggest issue, by far, has been funding for a project that is more than EUR 7 billion over budget. The next biggest issue is timing, as A400M delivery penalties and Lockheed Martin’s strong push for its serving C-130J Super Hercules cast a pall over the A400M’s potential future. The entire project was under moratorium for over a year as all parties decided what to do, but it’s now moving forward again. This DID Spotlight article covers the latest developments, as the A400M Atlas moves into production.
The A400M Program
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The original EUR 16 billion A400M Letter of Intent was signed in December 2001 for development and production of 196 aircraft, with a 1st flight in 2006 and initial deliveries in 2008. A EUR 20 billion contract was eventually signed between the EU’s OCCAR agency and Airbus Military in May 2003, for 180 planes. June 26/08 saw the first A400M aircraft rolled out at the final assembly line in Seville, Spain, but aircraft weight growth became a critical issue, testbed issues slowed engine certification, 1st flight slipped to December 2009, and March 2013 is now being discussed as the realistic initial delivery date.
The beginning of deliveries is a key milestone, and its lateness escalated into a significant issue. In September 2008, EADS CEO Louis Gallois reportedly sent a letter to the governments of 7 countries who had ordered the A400M, asking them to waive the contract’s built-in penalties for late delivery. Their alternative was a freeze in production from Airbus. Their core customers refused to budge, the freeze came to pass, and it took until November 2010 before a revised OCCAR contract got the project moving again.
A 2009 French Sénat report report estimated that A400M production would ramp up only in 2014, and that it would take until 2020 to clear the backlog introduced by development delays, assuming acceptable settlement of contractual and development issues. Current costs per A400M aircraft are placed at at EUR 145 million.
A lack of serving aircraft to act as an example and qualification, and a backlog of almost 200 planes, have already cost Airbus potential opportunities in Norway, Canada, and India. Lockheed Martin is using that time to solidify the C-130J variant’s position as a transport and Special Operations aircraft, and Embraer’s jet-powered KC-390 is putting its own plans and customer base together on 2 continents.
A400M: Tech Specs and Issues
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According to the February 2009 report from the French Sénat, serious development problems and delays have arisen in the aircraft’s digital engine controls, navigation and low-level flight systems, horizontal tail surfaces, and the definition of the wing design. The November 2010 agreement involves an interim standard that would not be capable of the more sophisticated flight modes, until avionics issues have been resolved.
The key specifications change to date involves base weight estimates that have risen by 12t/ 26,500 pounds. Airbus is not proposing to change the aircraft’s 37t carrying capacity, which implies a new maximum landing weight of 134t instead of 122t. That means that the most likely performance changes will be to speed (300 knots target), unrefueled range (3,450 nm target for 20t C-130J class payload; 1,780nm target at maximum 37t), and to the length of runway required for takeoff (914 m/ 3,000 feet target) and landing (822 m/ 2,700 feet target) when fully loaded.
A cruise speed of Mach 0.68 – 0.72 would have approached the C-17 strategic transport’s Mach 0.74 – 0.77, and significantly bettered the C-130J’s Mach 0.56 – 0.59. Testing of production aircraft will reveal where the A400M ultimately ends up, and how much of a competitive advantage it can retain. After 2015 or so, the jet-powered Embraer KC-390 will put even more pressure on the A400M to offer competitive performance in this area.
Takeoff and landing distances are also worth watching. Some customers and potential customers may have issues if performance changes extend those runway lengths extend too far, and begin to exclude a number of bases currently in use by Lockheed’s competing C-130 family.
A400M: Industrial Team
Technically, the OCCAR contract is with Airbus Military Sociedad Limitad (AMSL). AMSL includes various divisions of EADS (90%), Turkish Aerospace Industries (5.6%), and Belgium’s Flabel (4.4%). Industrial roles include:
The A400M Program: Dilemmas & a Deal
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EADS CEO Louis Gallois has been quoted as saying all expected profits from the initial 180 orders are already invested, adding that the A400M is “a heavy lossmaker” which was creating problems for EADS’ financial performance. He reportedly added in his September 2008 letter that the present position was “untenable”, unless a deal is agreed that “keeps everyone happy.”
That took until November 2010, and involved a production freeze from Airbus along the way. Why were they so willing to confront so many customers over this issue?
EADS is currently facing several major investment sinks. One is the ongoing effort to address issues with its A380 super-jumbo, which has cost the firm billions of euros. Another is the decision to develop the A350XWB as a major new technology project, after existing customers told Airbus that its plan for incremental improvements to existing designs would not be able to compete with Boeing’s 777. Then there’s the market for “single-aisle” airliners like Airbus’ A320 family, which makes up the bulk of Airbus’ orders. With Boeing working on a 737NG project to bring the next generation of aircraft to market in that class, Airbus had to invest billions of its own to create the A320neo, or face the prospect of a serious strategic setback.
The A400M’s issues flew the project directly into this financial storm. Project delays are already costly, and a November 2007 release from EADS reported a EUR 1.2 – 1.4 billion charge to earnings flow (up to $2 billion) as a result of the delays to that point. Payment of the EUR 1.2 billion penalty clauses on its first 180 aircraft would make those figures much worse, and might even have made it impossible for the A400M project to ever hope to turn a profit.
With anticipated A400M profits already invested, every dollar of profitability slashed would have to be replaced with investment dollars, during a major downturn for the airline industry, at a time when multiple investment projects were already straining Airbus’ capacity. All without any assurance that the A400M’s initial margin issues would be made up with enough subsequent orders at full rate to create an acceptable average return.
Worse, Airbus’ classic resort to government subsidies for investment dollars was constrained by a trade dispute with the USA over that exact issue, at a time when a $35 billion aerial tanker contract that Airbus had originally won hung in the balance.
Outright A400M cancellation is not possible without customer unanimity, and that will never be forthcoming. Liquidated damages may be possible for individual governments, however, if they refuse to accept late aircraft. That gave both parties considerable leverage in the run-up to the November 2010 contract.
A400M for loadmasters
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Under that deal, EADS ended up funding EUR 4.2 billion of the EUR 6.2 billion cost overrun to that point. That meant another EUR 1.8 billion write-down.
In exchange, EADS received 4 concessions that justified resuming production. The 1st was another EUR 2 billion for system design & development funding from the 7 partner nations: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, and Turkey. Each country would contribute funds in proportion to their number of orders. The 2nd contribution was another EUR 1.5 billion paid to Airbus as an Export Levy Facility quasi-loan, repayable by Airbus Military if the A400M wins enough exports beyond the initial group of 7 partner nations to reach 280-300 aircraft ordered over a 30-year period.
The 3rd concession involved a new project baseline, and a full waiver of the EUR 1.2 billion in late penalties based on the old project baseline. The 4th concession accelerated pre-delivery payments from 2010-2014, in order to help Airbus’ cash flow.
Overall, A400M deliveries will be an average of 3.5 years late, with an initial plane for France in March 2013, and 4 planes delivered that year (3 French, 1 for Turkey). Germany and Britain reduced their orders slightly by converting some planes into options that will almost certainly never be exercised, while France and Spain decided to space the same number of planned aircraft over a longer delivery time.
Contracts & Key Events
French initial support agreement; UK long-term training contract; LAIRCM for UK A400Ms, but no refueling pods.
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Aug 1/13: France. France accepts delivery of the 1st production A400M. It will head immediately to Orleans-Bricy air base, where it will be used as a training platform. The plane will eventually become part of the French Air Force operational transport fleet. France DGA [ in French] | Airbus Military.
France accepts 1st A400M
July 21-22/13: Certification. France may be proceeding to military type certification of the A400M, but Der Spiegel reports that Germany will have serious trouble. Germany is behind France in its delivery schedule, but close enough to delivery that certification needs to start now. Unfortunately, the commercial/ OCCAR approach to certification is incompatible with German law. It needs official Bundeswehr approval from the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw), working with the quality standards authority in Koblenz or the Military Technical Department 61 in Manching, Bavaria.
The bad news? Instead of the dozen qualified inspectors they’d need, a decade of steady cuts has left the BAAINBw with no qualified inspectors, and misplaced confidence in an external solution has left them with no legally-compliant plan. Both problems might have been solved with the planned Europe-wide military certification, but Europe hasn’t established any such system. Meanwhile, Airbus Military points rather inflexibly to the production contract, which doesn’t have any provisions for German inspectors to oversee final assembly.
As a result, plans explicitly designed to cut the cost of German licensing may end up backfiring, and create a situation in which the German inspectors who must be involved in certification can’t obtain the information they need to certify, but are still held personally responsible under German law in the event of an accident.
BWB undersecretary Stephane Beemelmans has formed a working group (q.v. Dec 20/12), whose May 31/13 memo recommends the immediate hire of 6 people at basic salaries up to EUR 108,000 per year, and the eventual creation in Cologne, Munster, or Manching of a national military certification agency of up to 400 employees within 4 years. Meanwhile, he’s trying to push the concept of a “virtual” national military aviation authority for the operation to certify the A400M. The legality of that approach could end up being decided by a court, and if it is, German A400M flight operations would be placed in a precarious legal position.
Germany’s defense ministry responds to subsequent questions from Bloomberg by emailing a response that doesn’t answer any of the key questions: “The timely delivery of the German A400M, according to the contract changes from 2010, is secure at this time.” Maybe, but delivery doesn’t mean you can fly them. Der Spiegel | Bloomberg.
July 19/13: Certification. The Certification and Qualification Committee of experts from the 7 A400M partner countries recommend its certification to France’s DGA, who is expected to accept that recommendation and issue a certificate in time for final accpetance of the 1st plane. The DGA acts as France’s technical authority, which is responsible for issuing a military type certificate allowing A400M flights.
Civil certification by EASA is its own separate process, and so is military qualification by the EU’s managing Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR). DGA [in French].
April 22/13: UK Costs. In response to a Parliamentary question from Angus Robertson [SNP - Moray], UK Secretary of State for Defence Dunne says that their A400M program is likely to come in around GBP 770 million over initial approval costs (around $1.23 billion), despite a cut in the fleet’s size from 25 to 22 planes. As Dunne explains, however:
“It should be noted that the cost variation quoted is assessed against MOD project approval figures, which represent the total MOD costs for any particular project. They therefore do not necessarily reflect contractual obligations. Project performance can be affected by a number of reasons, not all of which are in the contractor’s control.”
Dunne also acknowledges a conflict between this information and his written answer to Mr. Robertson on Nov 6/12, which listed EADS as having 0 projects over budget. The difference? This answer acknowledges Airbus Military as part of EADS, and it also addresses forecast costs rather than budgets to date. Mr. Dunne adds “the passage of time” to that list, making one wonder what has changed in the last 5 months. UK Hansard.
March 14/13: UK. UK minister for defence equipment, support and technology Philip Dunne confirms to Flight International that new RAF A400Ms won’t have in-flight refueling pods added to let them perform as aerial tankers, because:
“The Ministry of Defence has recently refreshed its study into requirements for air-to-air refuelling capability. This concluded that Voyager will meet all requirements; therefore, there is no need for an air-to-air refuelling capability by the A400M Atlas.”
Does Mr. Dunne even read his own press releases? The RAF’s new A330 Voyager MRTTs lack key defensive systems like LAIRCM, in order to avoid conflicts with their secondary use as civil charter planes. Those kinds of warning and decoy systems are necessary for refueling aircraft in even mildly hazardous environments, and Dunne’s own March 4/13 announcement touted LAIRCM’s importance to the A400M. Flight International.
March 13/13: EASA cert. Airbus Military announces full EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) civil Type Certification for the A400M. Civil certification is and long and arduous process, and its completion means that the A400M will be able to take advantage of fuel and time saving civil air routes.
French military certification trials continue, but they’re a separate issue. So, too, are other ongoing tests for advanced military functions, including air-to-air refueling when equipped with hose & drogue pods, airdropping of supplies and paratroopers, and low-level flight. Airbus Military.
Full EASA Type certification
March 6/13: Testing. Maiden flight of the 1st production-model A400M, which will be delivered to the French Armee de l’Air. Airbus Military.
March 4/13: UK LAIRCM mods. The UK MoD announces a GBP 80 million (about $120 million) contract to develop and install A400M modifications that would let it support Northrop Grumman’s LAIRCM defense system against optically-guided missiles. Those kinds of systems provide, in the words of UK minister Phillip Dunne, “essential defensive capability and peace of mind when operating in hostile environments.”
LAIRCM is designed to equip large aircraft, rather than fighter jets. It detects incoming missiles, and fires a laser at the seeker head. It isn’t powerful enough to destroy the missile, but by varying the pulses, it can provide massive false returns to the seeker. UK MoD
March 4/13: UK. The UK Ministry of Defence signs an 18-year, GBP 226 million ($340 million) contract with Airbus Military and Thales UK to supply RAF A400M training services. The contract is technically with the A400M Training Services Ltd. joint venture between those 2 firms. The contract will design, build, and manage the A400M Atlas Training School for aircrew and ground crews at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, including the full flight simulators and all synthetic training equipment, and support the RAF’s own course design team and training staff.
The simulators will be built at Thales UK’s facility in Crawley, West Sussex. they’ll include 2 full flight simulators for RAF pilots, a specialist workstation to train loadmasters, a cockpit simulator to train engineers, and a suite of computer-based training equipment.
Note that this is not the same as the joint support deal said to be in negotiations with France, but this infrastructure will accompany that eventual solution. UK MoD | Airbus Military.
UK training facilities
Feb 18/13: France. The EU’s OCCAR signs an initial 18-month In-Service Support (ISS) contract, on behalf of the French Armee de l’Air. The amount isn’t revealed, but it covers industrial on-base maintenance support, spares management, extended query answering service, etc. for the initial operating base at Orleans.
In November 2012, Airbus Military proposed that this 18-month period should be followed by an extension that adds the UK. “The parties concerned are currently discussing this offer with an expectation to reach an agreement during the second semester of this year.” Airbus Military.
Initial support: France
Jan 15/13: MSN7, the 1st production A400M, rolls out of the Seville hangar in French air force colors. It’s scheduled for delivery around mid-2013. Airbus Military.
A400M becomes “Atlas”; French Senat report concerned about support; Initial certifications.
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Dec 20/12: Germany. Germany’s defense ministry approves he formation of a working group to “develop an organization for the safe use of Bundeswehr aircraft and aviation equipment for transportation.” The deadline for their initial report in May 31/13.
What they really mean is that the A400M’s flight certification process doesn’t mesh with German laws, and they need a fast fix. See July 22/13 entry for more. Source: Der Spiegel.
Dec 10/12: Airbus Military has successfully completed the 300 hours of Function & Reliability (F&R) flight-testing, which had been interrupted by engine troubles. This is the last major step toward full certification. Airbus Military.
Aug 31/12: Engines. Airbus Military re-confirms that it will deliver the expected 4 A400Ms in 2013, though France’s 2nd plane will be a bit late within the year.
They also discuss the engine problems that kept them out of Farnborough air show (vid. July 4/12), which also suspended EASA full Type Certificate (TC). The problem was apparently a crack of a cover plate isolating elements within the Propeller Gear Box (PGB), and Europrop is currently validating a new design. As a consequence, the civil Type Certification and military Initial Operating Capability (IOC) will now move into Q1 2013.
July 9/12: Training. Britain places a GBP 50 million order for its first A400M Full Flight Simulator (FFS) and Simulator Support System (SSS), to be co-located with the A400Ms at RAF Brize Norton. It will be delivered in spring 2014, ahead of the first delivery to the Royal Air Force later in 2014. The FFS will be maintained by a joint venture consisting of Airbus Military and Thales UK’s Training & Simulation Ltd (TTSL). The 2 firms have been working on these simulators since 2007, with Airbus providing the data and software package to faithfully simulate its A400M, and Thales providing the simulator.
These simulators are developed and produced in Crawley, UK, and this is actually the 4th FFS. Airbus Military’s International Training Centre in Seville, Spain ordered the 1st, and France and Germany ordered #2 and 3. UK Prime Minster’s Office | Airbus Military.
July 7/12: The EU’s OCCAR and the A400M program countries give their transport an official operational designation: “Atlas.” That’s better than some of the suggestions out there, vid. July 19/10 entry.
The previous “Grizzly” moniker was an unofficial handle, used for the test planes. Airbus Military | UK MoD.
July 5/12: French Senat support report. With deliveries about the begin, the French Senate committee on foreign affairs and defense releases its examination of the A400M’s certification and support arrangements, while expressing the hope that budget austerity won’t cut existing A400M orders any further. They’re concerned that the support agreements look set to be a series of individual country arrangements, especially for the engines, and that basic provisions like a common spare parts pool aren’t being established. That will be much more expensive, and the Senat explains that 2/3 of a plane’s total lifetime cost is tied up operations & maintenance (in French, the acronym is MCO). On the other hand, individual arrangements would also let each country support its own local aerospace companies with maintenance contracts. All politics is local, so the French will have a very difficult time realizing the Senat’s ideal:
“En particulier, le principe du juste retour doit être définitivement abandonné et liberté doit être donnée aux industriels contractants de choisir leurs sous-traitants en fonction de leurs compétences et non pas de leur nationalité.”
The Senat may have more luck with their push for a common certification process, especially in light of the multi-national EATC transport pool. Common certification would simplify multi-national deployment of planes in the pool, but the Senat also sees a European military flight certification process as an important brand item for weapons exports. Senat Release | Full report [PDF, all documents in French]. See also Oct 12/11 entry.
Senat report: MCO
July 4/12: Atlas shrugs. Unexplained metallic shards in an engine gearbox will keep the A400M from performing its flight display at Farnborough 2012. The plane will be on static display instead.
The British event is the world’s most important airshow, and engine problems also cut short its planned flights at the Paris Air Show (“Le Bourget”) last year. This is a sensible precaution under the circumstances, but none of this will improve the already-poor relations between Airbus and Europrop. Bloomberg | Reuters.
No Farnborough flight
May 29/12: Engines. Flight International looks at the TP400-D6 turboprop engine sub-program’s progress and history. EPI President Simon Henley describes it as designed “for a civil-standard life, with all of the commercial reliability and availability aspects you’d design, but in a military environment.” Other key excerpts:
“An in-flight shutdown in June  led to redesign of the engine’s idler gear, while the inlet vane was tweaked after the discovery of high-pressure compressor blade fatigue… In the course of bringing the TP400-D6 to series production, assembly was consolidated at MTU Aero Engines’ Munich facility and pass-off testing at MTU’s site in Ludwigsfelde, near Berlin… Having the TP400-D6 line at Munich was seen as a route to greater efficiency for MTU, which could move manpower between different lines – commercial and military… ramp-up plans provide for annual production to reach a peak of 120 in 2015. EPI aims to reduce the time to assemble and test a TP400-D6 from an initial 60 days to 30 days. The engine is flat-rated at 10,000shp (7,460kW) at sea level, and has an uprated take-off capability of 11,000shp for hot and high conditions.”
May 30/12: South Africa. Denel Aerostructures (once Denel Saab Aero) is still losing money, and has pushed expected profitability back to 2016/17. They’re on track to deliver their first A400M parts this year, reportedly losing money on producing A400M parts, but have renegotiated with Airbus and raised prices. They’d better, because Airbus appears to be their only large customer. They just received a R700 million (currently about $82 million) capital injection from the National Treasury. IOL BusinessReport | Mail & Guardian.
May 5/12: EASA RTC. Airbus Military has received the A400M’s initial Restricted Type Certificate from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Full EASA civil certification is expected in mid-2012, and military Initial Operating Clearance is expected later in 2012. Certifications are often overlooked, but without them, new aircraft usually won’t be accepted into military service.
Europrop International has been ahead of the overall aircraft in this respect: its TP400-D6 engine got EASA type certification in May 2011, while the propeller was certified in March 2012. Relations with Airbus Military are still poor, however, as emphasized by this excerpt from the Airbus release:
“The fleet of five A400M development aircraft continues to make good progress in the intense flight-test campaign in order to ensure delivery of a reliable aircraft to our customer and has now completed more than 3,100 hours in the air, despite continued engine challenges.”
March 30/12: High altitude testing. Airbus Military announces that A400M “Grizzly 2″ recently visited La Paz, Bolivia, to perform high-altitude tests from an airport located more than 13,000 feet above mean sea level.
The firm also used the trip to do some promotion, showing the plane at the FIDAE airshow in Chile, and visiting Lima, Peru. Chile had an option for up to 3 A400Ms, but seems set to order Brazil’s KC-390s instead. Peru may prove to be more promising.
March 22/12: Prop certified. The European Aviation Safety Agency grants United Technologies Hamilton Sundstrand subsidiary Ratier-Figeac a FH385/386 propeller system type certificate. This is an important certification milestone for the platform, and for the 11,000 hp engine that drives the 8-bladed, all-composite, 17.5 foot diameter propellers.
This is the largest all-composite propeller in production, which handles twice the power of any existing in-service propeller. The firm says that it offers a thrust efficiency peak close to 90% at high cruise speeds, and each wing features a pair of clockwise and counter-clockwise rotating propellers for added aircraft stability and control.
In addition to the propeller system, Hamilton Sundstrand and its subsidiaries supply the A400M’s Secondary Electrical Power Distribution Center (SEPDC), Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), Ram Air Turbine (RAT) emergency power system, Trimmable Horizontal Stabilizer Actuator (THSA), and the Throttle Control Assembly (TCA). Hamilton Sundstrand.
Series production restarts, but engine still a source of friction; Export targets?
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Oct 12/11: MRO. The head of France’s DGA, Laurent Collet-Billon, has told the Assemblée Nationale’s defense commission that Airbus’ maintenance proposals have not been satisfactory, “…notably as regards to the engine.” Without a negotiated maintenance contract, the DGA is threatening to refuse to accept the planes, which would hold up the associated payments.
France is due to be the plane’s 1st operational customer, in March 2013. That requires a first-increment maintenance contract, until Britain begins to receive its planes and a joint maintenance contract can be signed. Les Echos is reporting that the price gap in current negotiations is around 20%.
Kepler Capital equity analyst Christophe Menard also points out that European MRO budgets are set to decline on average by 3.8% per year between 2010-2015, which helps explain the DGA’s drive for savings. On the other hand, Airbus can’t afford to bleed a lot more cash on the A400M project, and they can’t agree to another unrealistic plan like the A400M’s ruinous design phase. To make matters worse, ongoing distrust between Airbus and Europrop appears to be pushing Airbus to seek a significant margin of financial safety, before they will commit to a maintenance contract that includes the A400M’s engines. Aviation Week | Dow Jones | Les Echos and Commission de la défense nationale et des forces armées [both in French].
Sept 17/11: Testing. A400M “Grizzly 1″ performs the grueling “high-energy rejected take-off test.” That means it was loaded to the maximum take-off weight, then made a take-off run that was aborted at the V1 decision speed – the maximum speed at which the pilot has to decide whether to continue a take-off. Grizzly-1 blew out 3 tires stopping the plane, which isn’t unusual under the circumstances, and the test was considered a success. Airbus Military.
June 12/11: Marketing. Aviation Week talks to Airbus Military SVP of commercial business, Antonio Rodriguez Barberan. He sees the A400M as dominant by default within a decade, as Boeing’s C-17 line shuts down. Airbus Military’s estimate is 2,450 heavy transport aircraft around the world that are on average 26 years old. 1,015 are in North America, followed by Russia with 475:
“Barberan and his team know which countries to target when they ramp up marketing next year: those with major air forces and a large number of old transport aircraft – such as C-130s, C-17s and Ilyushin Il-76s. “In the next 10 years Asia will be a major market,” he says, except for China… Other candidates include Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates… “In the medium-to-long term the U.S. market is huge and there is a capability gap which the A400M would fill in due time.” This is also true for Australia, which recently procured C-130s, “but in 20 years, when these are becoming old, we will be there.” No presentations have yet been made to India, “but due to the size of the market the A400M would be perfect,” he says.”
May 6/11: Engine cert. Europrop International GmbH (EPI) announces that their TP400-D6 engine has received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) type certification. It is the first large turboprop engine to have been certified by EASA, and the first military engine to have been certified by EASA to civil standards from the outset. EPI.
May 3/11: Europrop International GmbH (EPI) announces that have finalized an amendment to their agreement with Airbus Military SL for the TP400 engine. The firm says that the amendment resolves all existing issues, but doesn’t give details.
See also March 16/11 entry. EPI | Flight International.
Europrop settlement & certificaiton
March 24/11: Testing. The A400M completes Vmu tests for the lowest feasible takeoff speed. Airbus Military.
March 16/11: Aviation Week reports that the qualified progress between OCCAR and Airbus Military could lead to agreement between the Europrop International (EPI) TP400-D6 engine consortium and Airbus Military, to settle conflicting compensation claims over engine-related delays. Airbus wants EUR 500 million in damages from EPI, and EPI counterclaims EUR 425 million from Airbus. The overall program’s limbo has had a predictably chilling effect on settling this issue.
Former Europrop EVP Jacques Desclaux, who left in January 2011, says the firm is already working according to the broad terms of the OCCAR-Airbus agreement, and believes the OCCAR deal will finalize “within a few weeks.” Meanwhile, engine FADEC software is now flying on 2 of the 4 development aircraft, with software and A400M civil certification planned for the end of 2011. European Aviation Safety Agency engine certification wasn’t really set up for turboprops, just turbofan jets. EASA certification is expected soon, however, and initial production deliveries of the 11,000 shp engines are expected to start in April 2012, with 8 (2 aircraft sets) delivered by the end of 2012, and 16 by the end of 2013. Production won’t really take off until 2014, in part as a result of lessons from the A380 to go slow and incorporate changes that emerge from testing.
Desclaux does say that in at least one instance, debris ingestion during a test of unprepared/rough runway performance forced a safe shutdown, without internal failures in the engine, and subsequent engine removal. That’s not alarming, but it is a good example. The A400M is supposed to handle those conditions, and depending on what engineers find, there could be design changes.
March 9/11: ELF payments. France pays EUR 417 million into the Export Levy Facility, as its share of the EUR 1.5 billion total. The money will be paid back as (or rather, if) the plane reaches specific export targets outside the consortium.
Meanwhile, consortium member Belgium has paid EUR 200 million to Airbus so far, of its EUR 891 million bill for 7 A400Ms to replace its current fleet of 11 C-130s. L’Express | Belgium’s 7 Sur 7.
March 9/11: Leadership. EADS announces that the first 4 production (non-test) A400Ms will be produced in 2012, adding that the production rate will gradually be ramped up to 2.5 aircraft per month by the end of 2015.
They are also replacing program head Rafael Tentor, who has led the programme for the last 4 years, with EADS Sogerm President & CEO Cedric Gautier. Tentor will in turn take over all other Airbus Military programs, covering the C212/ CN235/ C295, as well as the A330 MRTT and all other tanker conversions.
March 7/11: Reports surface that last-minute negotiations with Britain and Turkey have prevented the A400M consortium deal from unraveling, but as of March 9/11, A400M production is restarting without agreement from those 2 countries. Defense News | Reuters.
March 3/11: Testing. Airbus Military has successfully completed the number of required simulated flight-cycles on a full scale test airframe to achieve European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) civil type certification for the A400M.
The MSN5001 test specimen at Dresden has undergone 1,665 cycles, about 5 times the maximum number of flights expected to be recorded annually by each A400M in service. By mid-2012, 25,000 simulated flights will be performed – about 2.5 times the A400M’s design-life. See also Jan 18/11 entry. Airbus Military.
Feb 8/11: Testing. The A400M does initial cold weather trials in Kiruna, Sweden, accompanied by an Airbus A340-300 carrying support equipment and the test team. It will experience further cold weather testing in Kiruna and at other locations this winter and next. Flight International.
Jan 25/11: 40 for Germany? The governing German Free Democrats’ deputy caucus leader, Juergen Koppelin, says that Germany will stick to its pledge of 53 A400Ms plus 7 options. On the other hand, the options are dead, and Germany now plans to retain a fleet of only 40, and resell 13 on the global market. AP | Defense News.
Jan 20/11: Training. CAE announces a contract from Airbus Military to design and manufacture an A400M cockpit maintenance operation simulator (CMOS) based on CAE Simfinity virtual maintenance trainer (VMT) technology, to support maintenance technician training. The training device will feature virtual displays of the A400M aircraft, cockpit and maintenance accessible areas to provide familiarization, troubleshooting and procedural training for maintenance technicians.
The A400M CMOS will be and will be delivered to the Airbus Military training centre in Seville, Spain in 2012. The base contract includes options for CAE to develop additional A400M CMOS devices, as well as other A400M training systems for maintenance technicians. The contract’s value is cloaked by its presence within a scattershot set of announcements worth a total of “more than $140 million.”
Jan 20/11: Germany. Lawmakers from Germany’s Free Democratic Party symbolically delay their approval of Germany’s EUR 500 million share of the A400M loan agreement. German approval is seen as the last hurdle to signing the program’s contract changes. The vote is now on the Budget Committee’s agenda for next week, where it is expected to pass. Bloomberg.
Jan 18/11: Testing. Airbus Military announces that:
“Major fatigue testing of the Airbus Military A400M has begun on schedule in Dresden in January (see attached photos). The test airframe, known as MSN5001, will be subjected to a punishing regime of loads, 24 hours per day, for an initial four weeks, eventually simulating 160 flights per day. The first 1,665 simulated flights are required for European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) type certification of the A400M, but over the next 18 months a total of 25,000 simulated flights will be performed – equating to 2.5 times the A400M´s design-life. Static testing of another A400M test airframe, MSN5000 was completed in Madrid in September 2010. That airframe continues to be used for further fatigue tests of composite structures which will last until early 2012.”
Jan 12/11: A400M series production restarts, as EADS lifts its suspension. EADS CEO Louis Gallois says the firm sill believes there will be global demand for 400-500 A400Ms, but added that EADS will not mount an export sales campaign until the A400M is flying with the launch customers. EADS plans to deliver the first A400M in Q1 2013, which means the decision will give competitors like the C-130J and KC-390 a substantial window of opportunity. Defense News.
Re-negotiated contract is the year’s big focus, and event; South Africa cancellation still at loose ends; CEO jumps from A400M.
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Dec 20/10: Testing. “Grizzly 4″ makes its first flight, and the fleet of A400M development aircraft completes just over 1,000 hours flight-time and 300 flights n 2010. The overall flight test program will include 5 aircraft and over 3,700 flight hours. Airbus Military
Nov 13/10: CEO jump. A 10-man team of project staff jumps from A400M “Grizzly 3′s” ramp over the La Juliana drop-zone near Seville, Spain. Talk about pressure: it includes Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders, and OCCAR’s A400M Programme Manager Bruno Delannoy. Both men are experienced skydivers, and the team of 10 had 35,000 previous descents between them.
A stunt? A lark? Both – but also a compelling and dead-serious way of putting oneself behind the company/ team’s products, so soon after the very 1st jump. Color us impressed. Airbus Military.
Nov 12/10: Malaysia. Malaysia’s official Bernama press agency reports that Malaysia remains committed to its order for 4 Airbus A400Ms, adding that “It was reported last year that Malaysia, which would receive the planes in 2013, would not have to fork out extra money for the four air-lifters it ordered in 2005.”
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Nov 5/10: A contract at last. An agreement was signed March 5/10, but that wasn’t a contract, and some details remained. The terms of the finalized negotiations with OCCAR and the 7 A400M launch customer nations (Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey) are mostly the same as the March 5/10 announcement: Another EUR 2 billion for system design & development, EUR 1.5 billion repayable pending exports, accelerated pre-delivery payments from 2010-2014, and a EUR 1.8 billion FY 2009 write-down that turns EADS’ income negative for that year.
Britain has reduced its order from 25 to 22 planes, and there were rumors that Germany would drop its order from 60 to 53, losing a total of 10 confirmed orders. Later reports indicate that the final agreement converted those 7 German and 3 British planes into options instead, which is much the same thing. It also reportedly removed automated low-level flight technology, allowing Germany to save EUR 670 million (about $940 million). The remaining sticking point remains the timing of those accelerated payments, which will now be negotiated in a contract amendment. EADS | Bloomberg BusinessWeek | Reuters India.
Nov 4/10: Testing. “Grizzly 3″ is used for the A400M’s first paradrop, as 6 freefall paratroopers from the UK armed forces (2), French armed forces (2), and the French Centre d’Essais en Vol (2) jump in separate passes from 6,000 feet, at the Fonsorbes drop zone near Toulouse, France. Four of them jumped from the left-hand side door, and two from the ramp.
The paratroopers reportedly liked the A400M as a jumping platform. That may be related to the plane’s low 110 kt/ 203 kmh stable air speed, and also to a pair of small deflectors installed ahead of the side door, after previous tests with balloons and dummies noted turbulence and noise problems inside. Airbus Military | Flight International.
Aug 4/10: Testing. Airbus Military announces that the A400M’s all-composite wing has passed stress tests that subjected the design to 150% of the maximum bending load expected during the type’s operational life, which moved the aircraft’s wingtips upwards by 1.41m/ 4.6 feet. Airbus Military | Flight International.
July 29/10: Program update. During an investors’ briefing, EADS reports a more than 50% decrease in profit in first half underlying earnings compared to 2009, “weighed down mainly by exceptional negative foreign exchange impacts.” They also had this to say:
“The percentage of completion methodology was resumed on the A400M programme. In the second quarter, based on the allocation of internal milestones, around [EUR] 300 million in revenues were booked on the programme. Customer Nations and EADS continue working towards a contract amendment. In the meantime, the A400M flight test programme is progressing better than expected; however, the development of the Flight Management System is on the critical path, with more challenges than expected. Risk mitigation actions are being undertaken. Management assumptions of March 2010 underpinning the A400M provision calculation remain valid. As previously indicated, reassessment of these assumptions could have a significant impact on future results. “
See EADS | Defense News.
July 19/10: A400M-T Grizzly. The A400M gets a name: “A400M Grizzly,” after the North American bear. The name has been in unofficial use by the aircraft’s flight test crew for some time. “Atlas” was one of the more commonly-floated alternatives. Slyer suggestions included “Airavata,” the name of the Indian deity Indra’s white elephant. Technically, this designation applies only to the 5-plane test aircraft fleet. Airbus Military had this to say:
“The new name is not the product of an expensive marketing study, nor something devised by a team of branding experts, nor the result of months of debate among the sales team. Instead it is the affectionate nickname given to the aircraft by the close-knit group of flight test pilots and engineers who first saw it safely into the air… The Flight Test Team seized on the resemblance between the mighty airlifter’s hunched appearance and the muscular shoulders of the grizzly bear… By the time of the first flight on 11th December, the name had stuck sufficiently firmly that it was adopted as the aircraft’s radio callsign – Grizzly One.
Furthermore, a little-known fact is that the first flight also carried a party of non-human passengers – teddy bears to raise funds for the EADS-sponsored charity Aviation Without Borders – a nice reminder of the Grizzly’s future role in civic and humanitarian missions. The name rapidly spread throughout Airbus Military and beyond, and at the ILA Berlin airshow in June 2010 an informal Grizzly One logo appeared on MSN1 when it made its first public airshow appearance.”
July 11/10: South Africa. South Africa canceled its 8-plane order in November 2009, but the exact terms must be negotiated. A January 2010 deadline has passed, and the South African government has put Airbus on legal notice to recover its deposit. Airbus Military has already canceled one of South African A400M supplier orders (to Denel Saab Aerostructures) and expressed its intent to cancel its other orders and industrial offset investments without South African orders. It has also reportedly made an offer to su