The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

This is a five part series on the A400M Atlas transport aircraft

Part 1 – Background, Progress and Keeping and Options

Part 2 – What is So Good about the A400M Anyway?

Part 3 – Beyond Tomorrow, a Multi Role Platform

Part 4 – Export Potential

Part 5 – Say Hello to my Little Brother

 

Beyond its potential as a multi role base platform to cover a number of new and existing mission requirements what is it that makes the A400 Atlas worth all the trouble, we know the C17/C130 combination would be easier as they are both available of the nice shelves of the US defence industry.

This is the crux of the argument for the A400; it has to offer more than just industrial or political benefits for it to be judged a success. Despite the numerous development problems we have to try and look at the aircraft and its specification in isolation, forget the political and industrial backdrop and ask ourselves if it is worth having.

To remind ourselves, the A400M Atlas is officially defined as;

A400M is planned to provide tactical and strategic mobility to all three Services. The required capabilities include: operations from airfields and semi-prepared rough landing areas in extreme climates and all weather conditions by day and night; carrying a variety of equipment including vehicles and troops over extended ranges; air dropping paratroops and equipment; and being unloaded with the minimum of ground handling equipment.

One of the taglines for the A400 is that it can ‘transport what the C130 cannot to places that the C17 can’t’ which neatly sums it up but misses many of the other advantages of the A400.

Airbus Defence and Space – A400M The Versatile Airlifter

It is no C17 and it is no C130 either but that is exactly the point, it is not meant to be but it will always be compared to them.

The A400M is designed to replace the C130’s and C160’s in service with the launch customers.

airbus a400m cutaway 02 640x456 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Cutaway

Cargo Bay and Payload

The maximum payload of the A400M Atlas has yet to be fully released but the design objective is 37 tonnes compared with 19.1 tonnes for the C130J or 19.6 for the C130J-30 although the USAF C130 datasheetactually shows the normal maximum C130J payload as 15.422 tonnes and 16.329 tonnes for the J and J-30 models respectively.

The weight of a vehicle is usually readily available from open sources and equally the payload of the aircraft, so most high level analyses tend to start here.

However, there are many other factors that need to be taken into account; dimensions, weight distribution, uniformity of shape, securing practice and safety considerations all determine whether an aircraft can carry a vehicle, they will also need to undergo air carriage trials to confirm.

Despite this being the job of qualification and air despatch professionals we can still sneak a peek at those open source numbers and whilst accepting the unknown unknowns that only the professional will know, still get a reasonable idea of feasibility and come to reasonable conclusions.

We also have to be careful to understand what kind of weight we are quoting, is it kerb weight or gross vehicle weight. Kerb weight has a number of different definitions but generally is taken as including the vehicle, a single driver, fuel and fluids but excluding payload. The kerb weight plus maximum payload is often called the gross vehicle weight. For air carriage purposes a vehicle would generally be transported in as light a configuration as possible but if it needs to be ready shortly after it rolls off the ramp for tactical reasons then it might be required to have the full payload and therefore move over the limit for one aircraft or the other.

Equipment might also have its dimensions changed depending on the degree of readiness at the point of embarkation, radio antenna or bar armour could be fitted quickly after landing and some of the more modern vehicles are specifically designed with modular armour that can be removed for air carriage. The German Puma, for example, was specifically designed with A400M carriage in mind having modular armour that was built around the weight limitations, five A400M’s were designed to air transport four Pumas with their modular armour in the final aircraft.

One of the key factors of the sales pitch for the A400M Atlas is that equipment, plant and vehicles are getting bigger and heavier whilst the C130J isn’t. Airbus also makes the point that the A400M can deliver everything the C130J can into exactly the same austere locations but also a subset of the C17’s payload into locations it cannot.

The traditional hub and spoke model will use aircraft like large civilian transporters or C17’s deliver equipment into a Main Operating Base with tactical aircraft like C130J’s being used to fly it forward into Forward Operating Bases. I know the C17 can be used in extremis to fly direct into an austere forward location but as noted, this would need significant surface improvement if it were more than a one off and expensive maintenance activity after. This is a superb capability to have, no doubt, but not one to be used regularly.

With the turnaround speed, austere location capability and intermediate weight and volume capabilities the argument for the A400M is that in some scenarios, this hub and spoke arrangement can be collapsed. It is not claimed that it can do this with main battle tank class equipment but armoured vehicles of around 30 tonnes and other equipment, plant and vehicles that exceeds the 2.74m height and 3.12m width of the C130J.

The equipment and more importantly, combinations of equipment, that falls into this category is where the interesting analysis lies.

Something that always amuses when reading about the A400M is the notion that Airbus woke up one morning and picked the specifications out of their collective arses. The cargo bay is 3.85m high because that is what the launch customers wanted, not 3.86 or 10.54 but 3.85. The same is true for all the other characteristics, driven from user requirements that would have been the result of detailed and exhaustive operational analysis.

Airbus A400M Atlas Airborne Cargo Bay Dimensions 640x325 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Airborne Cargo Bay Dimensions

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo Dimensions The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo Dimensions

Detractors of the A400M would do well to understand who it is they are aiming their criticism at!

So

When defining the payload characteristics of the A400M Atlas, Airbus Military and the launch customers looked at four sets of influencing factors;

The first is that equipment would grow in volume and weight beyond that of the C130 and thus decrease the proportion of inventory which could be airlifted into austere locations on a sustainable basis.

Second, users would want to realise the operational and economic benefit of collapsing the hub and spoke arrangement in some scenarios.

Third, the demand for delivering heavy and bulky equipment closer to the point of need would grow, especially for disaster response and humanitarian support, a key aspect of predicted future military operations.

Finally, carrying more for a given crew size within the constraints of the payload envelope would generate savings in people, the largest cost component.

Although Airbus Military and the launch customers could not have predicted the impact of the IED on vehicle design and the need to increase protection against a range of threats the A400M has benefited somewhat, call it hindsight or call it luck but their first influencing factor, this increase in size and weight, has been fully reflected by the reality of Afghanistan and Iraq. Additional bar armour adds weight and width/length whilst ECM and protected weapon stations, either manned or remote, adds height. For example, the BAE Haggluns BvS10 Viking is only 2.2m high in the fresh from the factory version but adding the Platt MR550 ring mount, air conditioning and ECM adds just under a metre in height, pushing it from C130 to A400M carriage.

I have started to create a database of all relevant UK military equipment with dimensions and weights etc. (using manufacturer data) just to illustrate how things have changed and will post this in the future but to illustrate the trend of increasing size and weight, a selected group is shown below.

Land Rover WMIK >> Jackal

The Land Rover WMIK or even cut down recce wagon has now been replaced by the Supacat Jackal. Accepting there are many variants of the WMIK the approximate dimensions are similar, comparing the two, the Jackal is between 15% and 25% larger and just under twice the kerb weight.

Land Rover WMIK 640x478 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Land Rover WMIK

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Jackal Armoured Vehicle

As it happens, they can both easily be carried by the C130J but even for a stripped down lightweight system like this, the size and weight growth is obvious.

Land Rover Snatch >> Foxhound LPPV

The same volume and weight increases can be seen in the evolution of the Foxhound which is approximately 15% large in all three axis and again, nearly twice the weight.

The Land Rover Snatch Vixen 640x478 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

The Land Rover Snatch Vixen

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British Army Foxhound Light Protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV) in Afghanistan

Bedford MJ /Leyland DAF >> MAN SP Cargo Vehicle Light

What about the workhouse of any Army, its basic green truck. The Leyland DAF was slightly larger than the venerable Bedford MJ but the jump between the DAF and the MAN SP Cargo Vehicle Light is approximately 15% larger and heavier.

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DAF 4 Ton Truck

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MAN Support Vehicle

Add in a protected cab, some bar armour and a weapon station and it is no longer capable of being carried by a C130J.

Combat Engineer Tractor (CET) >> Terrier

The Terrier Manoeuvre Support Vehicle is actually slightly more compact that the CET it is replacing and thus might be seen to buck the trend but it ioeen to buck the trend but it os over 30% he the impact of the IED on vehicle design e by C130J os over 30% heavier and the British versions of the A400M will have a cargo floor specifically strengthened to accommodate it.

Royal Engineers Combat Engineer Tractor CET 02 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Royal Engineers Combat Engineer Tractor (CET)

Royal Engineers Terrier MSV Remote Control 04 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

A soldier uses a games consol style controller to control a Terrier armoured digger, which is controlled by remote control during an unveiling at the Defence Armoured Vehicle Centre, Bovington, Dorset.

Saxon AT105 >> Mastiff 3

Whether Mastiff remains in service after Afghanistan or not here is a clear evolution in the kind of protected mobility vehicle that can now be used. The IED has precipitated a volume and weight growth which is unlikely to be reversed.

Saxon Protected Vehicle 640x419 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Saxon Protected Vehicle

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Mastiff

Mastiff is between 19% and 35% larger than the Saxon and at least a third heavier, because of its size it is unable to be carried aboard a C130J but can be accommodated by the A400M.

Bv206 >> BvS10 >> Warthog

A small number of the original Bv206’s are still in service and they show exactly the size and weight inflation trend through to the theatre entry Warthog.

Hagglunds BV206 All Terrain Tracked Vehicles in Norway 640x448 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Hagglunds BV206 All Terrain Tracked Vehicles in Norway

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Viking vehicles operated by men of the Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) engage enemy positions after coming under fire from compounds surrounding Checkpoint Yellow 7 on the Shamalan Canal.

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A ‘Warthog’ Fighting Vehicle is pictured on patrol in the Loy Mandah District of Afghanistan, during an operation to clear out an insurgent hotspot.

The size increase is between 20% and 30% but the weight increase is a whopping 75%

Carrying More

The second factor informing the design of the A400M was the desire to carry a greater percentage of the overall inventory, not items that had seen size and weight growth but that were beyond the capabilities of the C130 or C160 in the first place.

Looking at singleton carriage, the following equipment cannot be carried on the C130J but by virtue of greater payload and a bigger cargo bay can be accommodated by the A400M Atlas;

Armoured Combat and Protected Mobility Vehicles

Non TES variants of the Warrior, FRES Scout and variants (initial estimate based on kerb weight), BvS10 Viking (TES), Warthog (TES), Mastiff, Ridgeback and variants, Wolfhound, CVR(T) Scimitar Mk2, Husky (TES)

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo Warrior 640x262 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo – Warrior

Artillery

Royal Artillery Arthur locating radar, GMLRS including payload, GMLRS Recovery

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Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo – GMLRS

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Airbus A400M Cargo Bay – Trucks and Light Guns

Engineering and Logistics

4 Wheels: DAF 4 Tonne T45 Dropside, MAN SV Cargo Light (Medium Mobility HX60)

6 Wheels: MAN SV Cargo Medium (Medium Mobility HX58), MAN SV Unit Support Tanker (Improved Medium Mobility SX44), MAN SV Unit Support Tanker (Medium Mobility HX58), Bedford TM 6×6 14 Tonne cargo (legacy fleet), Volvo FL12 Cargo truck with Jib (legacy fleet), Foden Recovery Vehicle

8 Wheels: Alvis Unipower BR90 Bridging Vehicle, Alvis Unipower BR90 Automated Bridge Laying Equipment vehicle, Alvis Unipower Tank Bridge Transporter (without bridge set), MGB Pallet Set on FODEN DROPS, Foden DROPS Improved Medium Mobility, Leyland DROPS Medium Mobility, MAN SV Cargo Heavy Medium Mobility HX77 8×8, MAN SV Cargo Heavy Medium Mobility HX77 8×8 EPLS

Airbus A400M Atlas Truck Loading Tests e1399931011908 640x427 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas – Truck Loading Tests

Tractor and Trailer: Seddon Atkinson 24.38 6×4 Tractor Unit Light Equipment Tractor, Foden 4380 MWAD 8×6 articulated 20,000L water tanker (Legacy fleet), Heavy Equipment Tractor 1070F (Oshkosh), Broshuis and King heavy trailers, 40 foot ISO container

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo ISO Container The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo – ISO Container

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload Semi Trailer and Tractor 640x298 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload – Semi Trailer and Tractor

Engineering Plant: Dump Truck Med 6×6 A3-6RA – Foden (legacy fleet), Case 721 BXT Rough Terrain Forklift (legacy), Case 721 CXT Armoured Loader Wheeled (legacy), Caterpillar 972G Loader (Armoured), Ingersol Trailer Mounted Compressor, Iveco tracker 6×6 Volumetric Mixer Volumetric Mixer, Medium Crawler Tractor (MCT) Caterpillar D5N DZ10 Tracked DZ11, Drilling Machine Rotary Truck Mounted Well Drill, Comacchio MC 450 – Drill Rotary EOD, Terex AC35 – Medium Crane Truck MTD 20-30 Tonne, Iveco tracker 6×6 Truck Mounted Loader (TML), Iveco Tracker 6×6 Dump Truck Self Loading, Tractor Wheeled Medium and Rough Terrain Fork Lift, Bomag BW 177 DH-4 (Roller Motorised Smooth Drum), Excavator Crawler Mounted Medium (Volvo EC210), Excavator Wheeled Medium (Volvo EW180C)

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload Mobile Crane 640x277 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload – Mobile Crane

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload Excavator and Dump Truck 640x295 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload – Excavator and Dump Truck

Surveillance and Communication

Falcon when mounted on MAN Support Vehicle

Aircraft and Aviation Support

Chinook (rear rotor disassembled), Apache Attack Helicopter (with stub wings and rotor head removed), Wildcat with only main rotor blades removed,

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Airbus A400M Cargo Bay – Apache Attack Helicopters

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo Agusta A109 640x262 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo – Agusta A109

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo Puma 640x264 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo – Puma

This is not and exhaustive list but it should provide some insight into the potential transformative effects delivered by the A400M.

The core role of tactical air transport is to deliver and sustain land forces, if by concentrating our resources on legacy aircraft like the C130 we deny ourselves the ability to discharge that fundamental role fully.

The fundamental truth is this, plant and vehicles are getter bigger and the C130 cargo box isn’t

Although it is easy to concentrate on these singular large payloads, it is combination loads of vehicles, plant, pallets and people enabled by the 4m by 3.85m by 17m cargo box of the A400M that are interesting.

A great deal of military equipment is designed with the C17 cargo box dimensions in mind, especially its height under the wing of 3.76m. The A400M Atlas has a minimum height of 3.85m compared with 2.74m for the C130J. Height is often the critical limiting factor for air carriage and in the kit lists above it is height more often that rules out C130 carriage.

Width is 4m compared with 5.5m for the C17 and 3.12m for the C130J but width is less of an issue for vehicles and equipment. Only really large loads like helicopters or main battle tanks and their derivatives need this width although double row pallet carriage is supported by the C17’s width.

Even if you look at shifting some Land Rovers, a single A400 can move 6 plus trailers, 3 times a C130J.

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload Land Rover and Trailer 640x287 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload – Land Rover and Trailer

The C17 though can carry a whopping 18 463L pallets but this is reduced to 9 if one wants the seats folded down, which is exactly the same as the A400.

The C130J can carry six 463L military pallets but there are restrictions on dimensions and direction in order to maintain a safe exit path. The C130J-30 only carries one less pallet than the A400M but in order to do so, the seats have to be folded up and therefore, it is unable to carry personnel. The A400M on the other hand can carry the A400 can carry nine 463L pallets and 54 personnel at the same time

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload Pallets and Personnel 640x143 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload – Pallets and Personnel

Different aircraft have different ramp loading weights; the A400M for example can carry a 6 tonne bundle on the ramp, the C130J much less than this. This also impacts on the maximum weight that can be air dropped. Floor loading factors limit weight distribution and the overhang or ramp area can be used for outsize cargos like gun barrels on vehicles or crane jibs on construction plant, if the floor length would indicate a piece of equipment could not be carried it might still be possible by using the ramp void.

A 2010 trial included a Ridgeback and Panther and the report in Flight International made the point that the A400M could not only accommodate the TES versions of these two vehicles but also a couple of pallets on the ramp and 50 odd personnel seated.

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Airbus A400M Cargo Bay – Mastiff testing

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Airbus A400M Cargo Bay – Panther testing

Some of the datasheet figures stand out, the C17 is stated as having a seating capacity of 102 against 128 for the C130J-30 or 116 for the A400M and yet the floor lengths are similar. The c130J-30 stretched variant has a longer fuselage and the same engines as the normal version but can carry 900kg greater payload.

The maximum payload figures might look impressive on one aircraft or the other but what does that do to the range?

Cargo hold heights are not uniform, the lowest point is usually under the wing area, whilst this will limit loads of a continuous height, some equipment might be shorter at one end that the other and so whilst the cargo hold dimension limit might preclude it, the actual situation might be different. The aircraft under consideration here are not uniform in width, the cargo bed will be narrower than the widest point so for vehicles and equipment that overhang above their wheelbase this might again change the carriage capability. Bar or slat armour will increase the width of a vehicle but not right down to the surface of the aircraft load bed and so this might be accommodated by the natural shape of the aircraft.

A larger height could allow loads to be carried on trailers or vehicles ready for drive away or simply to maximise volume. A good example is the Iveco Tracker 6×6 truck and JCB Telehandlers; these two generally go together with the telehandler being carried to site on the back of the Tracker. They are both individually transportable by C130J but not when the telehandler is secured onto the cargo load bed of the truck. In the A400 on the other hand, both can be carried together, thus minimising floor space used and maximising the volume of the aircraft whilst reducing handling at the destination.

Many modern vehicles in their Theatre Entry Specification (TES) have additional fittings such as remote weapon stations or ECM and communication ‘roof racks’ so the extra height would not normally find itself into the vehicle specification sheets. This extra height might tip it over from one aircraft to the next, the Panther being a good example. In the much rarer scenarios of vehicles needing to be ready (almost) to fight the moment they roll off the ramp this might be important but in other less dramatic scenarios it might simply reduce the overhead in putting the vehicles back together again after they have been broken down ready for transport. This might seem like a trivial saving in time but a) it is not and b) every person counts on operations as they have to be fed, protected and otherwise sustained at great cost.

What I am trying to get at here is that just looking at maximum payload, cargo bed width or numbers of pallets only gets you so far, these are important but have to be balanced against potential restrictions, range implications and how loads are mixed. The ability of aircraft A to carry equipment B is also not as simple as it may look because of non-uniform dimensions of both aircraft and equipment, variation in floor loading and other factors.

The loads and volumes would also then be used to establish likely scenarios and resultant plans, phasing equipment, vehicles, stores and personnel to a predetermined logistic plan for operation of one type or another, working out sustainment mission load patterns, where these loads would need to be delivered and how that would dictate plans.

It is very complex so comparing aircraft by cost per tonne or cost per meter cubed might be an interesting exercise, as is looking at equipment dimensions and seeing if they fit but there is more to it than that.

The RAF’s C130J’s use the Dash 4a Cargo Handling System from AAR Corp that is not the same as that on the older C130K’s that use the old Skydel system or the newer Enhanced Cargo Handling System (ECHS) fitted to most C130J’s. I read that the RAF C130’s were delivered without a cargo handling system and old ones fitted at Marshalls because LM would not sign off on the Skydel, ECHS was too expensive and Lockheed Martin’s construction quality was compromised by old jigs that meant the floor beams did not fit. Either way, we seem to have ended up with a mish-mash of  systems that are ill suited to modern operations.

The UK versions of the A400M will be delivered without a roller/restraint system that would allow carriage of civilian 125 inch wide Unit Load Device pallets and underfloor winch to save money but will instead be strengthened to allow the Terrier armoured engineer vehicle to be carried. If one reads the NAO report the civilian pallet system was deleted to save a few million pounds and I hope that yet again, the cargo handling system on a new aircraft is not being de-specified in order to save tiny sums of money.

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo Floor 640x315 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Cargo Floor

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Airbus A400M Atlas Crane System

I am already getting that sinking feeling despite the A400M’s AAR provided and PFM designed standard cargo handling system supposedly being very impressive.

The large wheel wells provide aerodynamic improvements that allow simultaneous paratroop and cargo despatch and create space inside which is used for equipment that might otherwise impinge on the cargo bay.

Air dropping of equipment and supplies is an interesting concept and one that has seen a resurgence in the last decade or so, especially for air despatch of supplies as opposed to personnel and vehicles.

I covered the subject in some detail a couple of years ago, click here, looking at that article it is probably due a refresh.

The A400M will be able to air drop single loads up to 16 tonnes and with the higher ramp loading limits and very carefully designed aerodynamics air despatch and dropping paratroopers should be a very strong point for the A400M. The challenge will be to manage trials, certification and getting around to actually replacing some of the ancient platforms and associated equipment still in service.

We should most definitely not concentrate solely on outsize loads because it is unlikely that the RAF will be flying Mastiffs into a rough field, but the plant and vehicle changes are real and cannot be simply dismissed by saying, well, we don’t do it that much anyway or they can just drive in from a C17 concrete runway.

By keeping the C130 and not moving on, we are tacitly accepting that more and more of the types of equipment that used to go in the back of a Hercules now need to go via C17. This would be fair enough if we had loads of C17’s which were cheap to operate, low maintenance and able to repeatedly operate from austere locations, but it does not and cannot.

What is the point of a tactical airlifter that cannot airlift an increasing number of items in the inventory?

Performance

With a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet and cruise speed up to Mach 0.72 the A400M Atlas can fly in regular civilian airspace.

Airbus A400M Atlas Altitude and Speed Comparison 640x402 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Altitude and Speed Comparison

Testing is confirming that the aircraft has excellent aerodynamic performance and very stable in normal flight but extremely agile for such a large aircraft. It has been noted that this aerodynamic stability and clean air flow over the rear of the aircraft will allow some interesting thoughts on payload delivery to develop, launching UAV’s and cruise missiles looks less like a load of nonsense now!

In addition to the excellent handling characteristics and speed it is range that the A400M Atlas is quite impressive.

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload Range Graph 640x346 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Payload Range Graph

The map below shows the range of the A400M from Brize Norton; 3,300km at 37 tonnes, 4,500km at 30 tonnes, 6,400 at 20 tonnes and 8,700km ferry range.

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Airbus A400M Atlas – Range Map from Brize Norton

And again from RAF Mount Pleasant, Al Udeid in Qatar, Wideawake at Ascension and RAF Akrotiri

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Airbus A400M Atlas – Range Map from RAF Cyprus

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Airbus A400M Atlas – Range Map from Mount Pleasant

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Airbus A400M Atlas – Range Map from Ascension

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Airbus A400M Atlas – Range Map from Al Udeid

A comparison with the C130J is also shown below, the two circles represent the C130J and A400M at 20 tonnes payload, 1,852km km and 6,400km respectively. The C130J range at this payload has been derived from the graph on page 29 of the C130J datasheet, click here to view.

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Airbus A400M Atlas – Range Map comparison with C130J and A400M at 20 tonnes

These range maps are imperfect; they assume straight lines and uniform flight profiles for example and the different fuel configurations with regards to reserves etc are not known. They provide a good indicator though.

The UK is planned to be largely out of Afghanistan well before the A400M comes into service but we are currently flying a hub and spoke from the UK to the Middle East and then into Afghanistan, trooping flights using C17’s are very wasteful of precious and expensive aircraft hours but the A400M in this situation could fly direct to Bastion from Brize Norton with a mixed load of pallets and personnel up to 20 tonnes at a significantly lower cost than the hub and spoke currently being used.

It will be able to lift 20 tonnes from Ascension to Mount Pleasant. Cyprus is well placed for operations into North Africa and the Middle East and Qatar, Oman or Bahrain puts large areas in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East within reach without resorting to stop overs or airborne refuelling.

All this at relatively high cruising speeds and altitudes as well and the similarity to the UK’s C17 fleet means that the complex task of ‘flow management’ will be made easier. Speed also reduces duty cycles for crew which will result in cost savings as less crew will be needed for a given task in comparison to the C130J.

For air dropping these circles will obviously reduce unless airborne refuelling is used but because the A400M can be used in the AAR role it could be used to self-deploy multiples and the return leg.

Austere Operations

The specification of the A400M Atlas requires it to match or improve upon the short field performance of the equipment it is replacing, namely the C160 Transal and C130 Hercules. If it does not do this it will have failed against one of the key design metrics so Airbus have aimed for a significant improvement.

If one looks at the undercarriage arrangement, the nose wheel and main wheels it is obvious that they are big, have a large footprint and designed to spread the load out across a larger area, thus reducing ground pressure.

Airbus A400M Atlas Wheels 640x432 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas – Wheels

The A400M has been designed not just to land and take off from rough and soft surfaces but to do so repeatedly. On a CBR 6 surface it can land, unload and take off 40 times before the runway is unusable without improvement with a mixed fuel/payload load of 30 tonnes. On a CBR 8 surface this raises to 225 missions.

It can land 27 tonnes onto an 830m soft strip

Airbus A400M Atlas Take Off Distance 640x347 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Atlas Take Off Distance

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Airbus A400M Atlas Landing Distance

To enable operations at austere locations the A400M Atlas can kneel and roll so that equipment can be loaded on uneven ground and it can reverse up a 2 degree slope or 1 degree when fully loaded without a ground tug.

Messier Bugatti have designed the Steering/Landing/Kneeling system to allow, for example, a wheel to be changed by raising the aircraft. There are three positions

Systems

The Thales Top Owl helmet mounted sight has been selected for A400M Atlas flight tests and this will probably flow through to production aircraft. Thales has also been selected to provide the flight simulators for the RAF, Rockwell Collins for the HF-9500 radio system and Rode and Schwarzfor the VHF/UHF radios..

There is a full fly by wire flight envelope system that has been derived from the A380 and uses the very latest full duplex dual speed network called Avionics Full Duplex Switched Ethernet or ADFX. The benefits of this, as opposed to the traditional means of connectivity is it provides quality of service, can hugely improve resilience and lowers the amount of cabling used, with obvious weight benefits. This is linked to the Integrated Modular Avionics system using a range of interactive LCD displays and computing modules, this modular approach is predicted to decrease maintenance, support and upgrade costs significantly. If one looks at the cutthroat world of commercial aviation where through life costs are under constant downward pressure, the A400M Atlas is benefiting from technology proven elsewhere.

The Europrop International (EPI) TP400D-6’s are worth mentioning because they are the most powerful turboprops fitted to any Western aircraft, at a power rating of 11,000 SHP.

airbus a400m engine tpd600 1 640x450 The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

Airbus A400M Engine TPD600

The defensive aids will be equally impressive, the Thales Multi-colour Infrared Alerting Sensors (MIRAS) system and Indra ALR-400 provides advanced detection with a range of chaff/flare launchers from MBDAand towed radar decoys providing protection. A Directed Infra-Red Countermeasure (DIRCM) system may also be fitted but the final configuration and fit for the RAF may not be decided until closer to in service. Defensive systems, fuel tank inerting and other protection systems may have been subject to budget based reduction in the past but with the A400M Atlas they have been a very high priority and it is an area that European industry excels at. The National Audit Office major projects reports do indicate that not all aircraft will be initially fitted with the full compliment but I find it hard to believe that when in service the aircraft fleet will not be fully configured, you never know though.

Germany has decided to forego their original automatic terrain masking low level flight system but the standard system is still impressive and will continuously compare the aircrafts position by GPS and INS with a database of elevation and obstructions with the resultant information being passed back to the flight control system.

Goodrich TERPROM

Support

Airbus have many years of driving down support costs but a military aircraft self-evidently is subject to a different set of stresses to their civilian models, that said, many of the concepts of integrated logistics support are still applicable.

The maintenance downtime is designed to be only 84 days with three levels of checks; Line (A Check) every 150 days, Base (B Check) every 24 months and Depot (C Check) every 72 months. One of the key selling points of the A400M is its low operating costs.

There is a maintenance free operating period of 15 days during which only minimal serving is needed which can be carried out by the aircrew and with supplies carried on board. A Ground Kit and Long Deployment Kit are also available which contains a range of tools and spares and extended this maintenance free autonomous period to 150 days or 500 flight hours.

These remain to be proven of course.

Summary

Despite all its trials and tribulations the A400M Atlas is approaching the end of the initial development programme, users will be able to start exploring just what it can do, pushing the performance envelope and realising the considerable investment made.

In Part 1 I looked at the background and industrial issues but in this part I have tried to explain how the A400M is worth the wait and money.

If we look back at bit of equipment that were hard to replace, the Bedford 4 tonner being a good example, there was an enormous resistance to venturing into new areas but the MAN Support Vehicle which is a big step forward has been a real success. Change is always difficult but sometimes a revolution is better than an evolution so whilst the C130J is no doubt a big act to follow I think the A400M represents that break with the past that is long overdue.

The next part will look at the potential of the A400M in missions other than transport.

 

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191 thoughts on “The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 2 (What is So Good about It Anyway)

  1. S O

    “C17/C130″

    That would be C-17/C-130.

    “Airbus A400M Atlas – Wheels”

    Reminds me of the Ar 232:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arado_Ar_232

    It was perfect for resupply/WIA evacuation for pockets or for armoured spearheads, but it required two engines of the same kind as the Fw 190A/F/G fighter(-bomber) as well as upgraded bomber models and it was an all-metal aircraft with lots of aluminium at a time when the aluminium supply wasn’t a solved problem yet.

  2. WiseApe

    @ TD – you’ve answered my last comment from part one, namely what will the A400M be doing, quite nicely, at least from the purely transport angle.

    “One of the key factors of the sales pitch for the A400M Atlas is that equipment, plant and vehicles are getting bigger and heavier whilst the C130J isn’t. Airbus also makes the point that the A400M can deliver everything the C130J can into exactly the same austere locations but also a subset of the C17’s payload into locations it cannot” – this is surely the key point; I see A400 basically as a straight replacement for C130, but also a cheaper alternative to C17 on occasion.

  3. S O

    The Ar 234 was a freaking flying fuel barrel.

    “It can land 27 tonnes onto an 830m soft strip”
    Btw,
    “31.5 tonnes, 43 tonnes maximum weight with add-on armor”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puma_ifv

    The KMW folks I spoke with were royally pissed off by A400M moving goalposts (already in 2008) and pessimistic about actual production A400M being of any use for medium AFV air lift (including GTK).

  4. solomon

    in the first few paragraphs you made the statement that the airplane shouldn’t be compared to the C-130 and then spent the rest of the article doing just that!

    but even ignoring that minor tidbit, we still have to get to the real soup and crackers of this issue. you have an airplane that is better than the C-130 (but can’t get into as many places tactically just because of the weight issue) but not as good as the C-17, yet costs almost as much!

    that’s the real issue. why would i want to spend almost as much money but get less capability from an airplane if one is in production that can deliver more at slightly more costs and probably equal costs if i push the US government hard enough.

    great idea but too late and in the wrong budgetary environment to be a big success.

  5. Mark

    Terrific read. Do you know during loading tests in France they loaded a super puma in 6 mins.

    A400m will operate into or out off anywhere a c130j can go.

  6. solomon

    and if it does it’ll run into the same issues that the C-17 will. remember when first offered the C-17 was suppose to break the supply hub too. soft ground is no one’s friend.

  7. solomon

    so you’re telling me that an airplane that costs almost as much as a C-17 but can’t carry as much is a better deal for an airforce than a couple of C-130′s…or Kawasaki C-1′s or Embraer KC-390′s or a C-17?

    like i said. a good idea but poorly implemented and late to the market. dreams of selling a few to the USAF was a Bill Sweetman fantasy. ideas of selling this plane outside of the EU is also fantasy.

    what you have here is a modern day Transall…and i would bet that numbers bought by the EU will be limited so the price will soon equal or exceed that of the C-17.

  8. solomon

    i was too late to mod my statement but that’s the real issue too. for one A400 you can buy two C-130′s.

    is one A400 worth two C-130′s? i would bet that the RAF would say no.

  9. Brian Black

    solomon, “why would i want to spend almost as much money but get less capability”

    But that is a one dimensional viewpoint. You get the increased access of a smaller tactical aircraft, which is itself an additional capability; and you get that additional capability without sacrificing too great a proportion of load capacity.
    Also, at the RAF scale, it’s important at get an aircraft that can tie in long-range high-speed performance with tactical utility and access. Otherwise, we would surely need greater overall numbers of Cdash17 and Cdash130 which would cost the MoD more money.

  10. Topman

    @ solomon

    Purchase price that maybe, but what about operating costs?

    @ TD

    Nice article, I’ll admit I was a bit sceptical of the A400M, less so know. I do always wonder, without being on the project, how much of it is manufacturers waffle? A large cost being manpower and spares it’s interesting to read the support section.

    One quick question on that section, ‘A Ground Kit and Long Deployment Kit are also available which contains a range of tools and spares and extended this maintenance free autonomous period to 150 days or 500 flight hours.’
    How can it be maintaince free if it needs tools and spares?

  11. Mr.fred

    Solomon,
    Forgive me if I take the role of Devil’s Advocate for a moment:
    Is a second C130 worth the additional flight and ground crews?
    Is a second C130 worth the brigade-level operations required to bring over-sized equipment into the area of operations?
    Do we have the tanker support to run two C130s out to the area of operations?

    The C-17, built in large numbers and sold across the world, is still more costly that the programme cost of the A400M, if I read the articles correctly.

    Lastly, please re-read the section headed “Austere Operations”

  12. Brian Black

    “for one A400 you can buy two C-130′s … is one A400 worth two C-130′s?”

    But even if the purchase cost was two for one, with more smaller aircraft you would still need more air-crew, more ground-crew, more maintainers, more logisticians… it would not follow that the all-inclusive costs would be equal on a two for one basis.
    And if you did buy two C-130 instead of the larger A400, if a particular vehicle didn’t fit in one C-130 it would not fit in the other C-130 either.

  13. x

    SO said “was a freaking flying fuel barrel”

    So was Saturn 5…..

    @ Sol

    The thing is the US is in a different league to us. You do need theatre wide transport. For you even oddities like JHSV work. The UK will only ever go somewhere once you have kicked the door down and made it safe. Our SF may be the busiest part of armed forces and they need 20t lifter. But I am beginning to question the need for 20 or so even bigger planes that are new and not flown by our main ally.

    C130 answers the same question that DC3 did. The CH47 lifts more than DC3. It may not be as fast. And the range of the two are completely different. But most re-supplies are with in the range of the helicopter. But CH47 can land anywhere that even the redoubtable DC3 can’t. WW2 commanders would have loved to have a CH47.

    Of course it is heresy to question the need for an RAF capability, especially one with fixed wings. Has a transport person been head of the RAF?

  14. solomon

    no need to re-read austere operations. the ground side (Army and Marines) have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to tactical airlifters actually being tactical.

    truth be told it will always be helicopters that carry the load to the little bases and FOBs.

    but back to the issue at hand. quite honestly the RAF (speaking only of that air arm and not looking at the rest of the EU) would be better served (if we’re talking about a mix of cost and utility) by buying a mix of A330′s, C-17s and C-130′s…the A400 is the real outlier in the lift equation, not the C-130.

    to be honest this is more about the european aerospace industry than it is about military equipment. but i’m good with that. WE (and that includes the US) need strong aircraft design in Western Europe. if this is the price of keeping that effort alive then so be it, but lets not glorify a middling airplane with delusions of it being tactically superior to what is already being produced.

  15. All Politicians are the Same

    It is interesting that the UK will be the only operator using the A400M that will operate it alongside a larger strategic aircraft. I think the capability it brings is very good.
    It brings proper tactical austere access with strategic range speed and payload. It can land in places the C17 cant whilst carrying vehicles and loads the C130 cannot.
    The real question is can we afford enough of them to carry out the mundane tasks. Will we have A400m flying a couple of pallets around as we have nothing else to use.
    Could we extend a few C130 for lighter loads or well outside the box would be a purchase of CN 295 or CJ 27 for light transport roles and able to take a palletised mission suite to give a basic MPA or even gun ship capability.

  16. S O

    Serious question, after looking again at all those images of drawn trucks up there:

    You guys are aware that the fixation on vehicle-carrying capacity of military transport aircraft largely goes back to the post-’99 craze of the U.S.Army about its “relevance” after it hadn’t proved useful in the Kosovo conflict, right?
    The U.S.Army got all crazy then (Shinseki et al) and developed the stupid Stryker Brigade(s) with the stated intent to be able to deploy one by air lift within four days’ notice

    They didn’t ask the U.S.A.F. first, which clearly would have had own priorities concerning what to deploy first (F-22, Patriot PAC-3 anyone?).

    Strategic or whatever airlift is close to irrelevance for AFVs (save for BMDs). What little airlift is being done (mostly concerning Afghanistan) was possible and was in great part done using civilian air freighter capacities.

  17. All Politicians are the Same

    SO,
    You may have noticed that recently we have far more use for light vehicles than F22 or Patriot Pac 3 as recent conflicts have not seen the enemy have much of an Air Force.

  18. Jeremy M H

    A very through article but I still think it fails to get to the heart of the issue that others are hitting at a bit. There are certainly things it can do a C-130 can, as everyone has admitted. But we still have not really stated a realistic scenario that lays out exactly what great things all this additional expense enables us to do.

    Is there an important scenario someone can come up with where having A400M’s instead of C-130′s really makes a difference in something important?

    It seems to be commonly accepted that the C-130′s have been worked hard moving around general cargo. Much of what the A400M will do is much more boring than moving around the handful of things it can carry and the C-130 can’t. I just struggle to put a critical reason to exist behind the A400M for the UK.

    I look at the Type 45 and I say that enables the RN to fight in a high air threat environment.

    I look at the Eurofighter/Meteor combination and I know it is there to provide a robust anti-air capability.

    I look at CVF and I know what capability it is supposed to provide and why it cost so much.

    I don’t have that same sense of clarity with the A400M and it is not because I don’t understand the mission or the advantages it has over the C-130. It is just that I have a hard time finding them compelling given the cost of the platform. I think that is the reason that everyone operating heavy lift aircraft is basically passing on the A400M except the UK.

  19. arkhangelsk

    >Detractors of the A400M would do well to understand who it is they are aiming their criticism at!

    You say this, but immediately before you already gave us at least two criticisms to grab:

    >The German Puma, for example, was specifically designed with A400M carriage in mind having modular armour that was built around the weight limitations, five A400M’s were designed to air transport four Pumas with their modular armour in the final aircraft.

    Here’s one example of questionable requirement setting. They’ll never get Western tanks into the plane, but for 6 more lousy tons, Germany won’t have to resort to this half measure. I can’t believe Germany didn’t at least fight for this…

    >The cargo bay is 3.85m high because that is what the launch customers wanted, not 3.86 or 10.54 but 3.85.

    Do you mean to tell me all the launch customers were totally against the concept of it being say 4.1m tall, which will allow the cargo bay to be temporarily split into 2 decks and double the passenger capacity, or to allow the lower deck to be used for small cargo? That ought to be worth SOMETHING… maybe politically they can’t buy or co-build An-70 but at least they could steal that idea (when they rejected East-West cooperation, the A400 was still a Powerpoint slide) … which part of the operational analysis crushed this one, now it carries a similar number to the C-130J-30 as you mention.

    >With a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet and cruise speed up to Mach 0.72 the A400M Atlas can fly in regular civilian airspace.

    Now, here I think Tupolev and Kawasaki will disagree with you. Their argument is that their turbofan propelled planes are better because they are ~50KTS faster and thus integrates better into the airliner traffic.

  20. All Politicians are the Same

    arkhangelsk

    On size and weight issues. I guess you could keep arguing for extra size and tonnage but at what stage do you simply make the aircraft a C17 clone.

    Interfacing with civilian air traffic is about reaching a minimum speed to be allowed to use them. At 485 MPH it is comfortably within this zone.

    What military transports do Tupolev make? Did the Tu 330 ever enter service?
    The Kawasaki C2 is indeed 50 kts faster than an A400m and for those 50kts it can only carry 12 tonnes as far as an A400M can carry 20 and Jets and rough field landings are a marriage to make any maintainer shudder.
    I am not convinced that we need an A400 but I can appreciate its capabilities.

  21. Jeremy M H

    @APATS

    “I am not convinced that we need an A400 but I can appreciate its capabilities.”

    That sums up my feelings pretty well. As a US taxpayer I certainly would not want to pay to create the thing. Now if the USAF were looking for another 150 C-130′s and they got offered the A400M for say 10-20% more than a C-130 I would jump all over it. But make the price difference a lot more than that and I think I can find other more useful things to spend my cash on.

  22. arkhangelsk

    @AParS
    I have no intention on making a C-17 clone. However, since Western Europe was arrogant enough to kick aside the assistance of a veteran and try to build a medium transport by itself, it is inevitable that I will evaluate its product against the product it tried to crush especially since it is MUCH more expensive.

    As for the 485MPH bit, as I understand it 780km/h is the A400M’s maximum speed. AF Technology actually quotes a “normal operating speed” as low as 555km/h, Antonov estimates the cruise at 720 (that’s the value that stuck in my mind) and Airbus’ own page waffles in the language with “up to” and “high speed” cruise enough to allow for either interpretation. All this suggests to me that it won’t really be going at 780 most of the time and if it did, it won’t meet the full range spec at the same time. Would it still be above the minimum speed at 720km/h?

    I hadn’t even heard about the Tu-330 for some time. Though my feelings for the An-70 are already irrevocably published, I have no intention of claiming Tu-330 or C-2 are better than the A400M. In fact, to be blunt I consider Tu-330 a crummy strawman project by Tupolev that helped to delay the An-70′s development (along w/ causing more un-necessary bad blood) and the emphasis on speed over payload in the C-2 another big mistake – I mean, they were building a Type 10 medium tank parallel to the C-2′s development, and by stretching the requirement to 44 tons, they could have airlifted it which would have given a bit of reality to the new “Dynamic Defense Concept”. But no, instead the max payload was 30 tons, and they now have to make some kind of 26-ton (thus airliftable) wheeled “Maneuver Combat Vehicle” that (given history) won’t work out to be much cheaper than the Type 10, will eat into the already sorely limited tank count, and will be inferior in firepower and protection. Ugh.

    I just put them up to suggest that other people may have different opinions about that very specific point of its suitability for the airways.

  23. All Politicians are the Same

    ark

    ref the speed issue, the only site I can see that talks about 555km/h is that one site. i suspect what they are actually talking about is the normal operational profile which may not involve high altitude high speed long distance trips as it is also a “tactical” aircraft.

    Whilst attempting to find some references about speed I stumbled across this site. Worth a browse.
    http://www.a400mflighttest.com/

  24. arkhangelsk

    @AParS
    Will take a look at it, thanks.

    @Jeremy,

    The idea of specifying how much cheaper the A400M must get to be a “good idea” is great for ensuring one’s thoughts remain rational, but 10-20% over the -130 seems a bit ungenerous. Given that the A400M carries at least 80% more by weight, over 100% more volume, which in practical terms translates to somewhere between 1.5 times and 3 times more items, plus carries equal weights to longer distances and carries various items the -130 can’t carry, period, given a choice between the two my generosity will stretch to at least twice the cost, but thrice-plus (42m v 141m) is a bit … much IMHO.

    The bigger problem IMO is -400 v -17 because the -400 is expensive enough they won’t like settling into into rough strips too much more than the -17, which deletes one of its bigger rationales.

    Anyone else on either side of the debate want to try (for the pro-A400Mers, how much more the thing’s relative cost can inflate before you join the “It’s not worth it” crowd)?

    @TD
    Oh, and looking forward to your Part 3!

  25. Topman

    @ arkhangsk

    ‘because the -400 is expensive enough they won’t like settling into into rough strips too much more than the -17, which deletes one of its bigger rationales.’

    On this point apparantly not, Mark one of the contributers on here, I believe help design the undercarriage. It’s rough field capability is supposed to avoid the problems that the C17 had when first brought into service.

  26. Brian Black

    Isn’t it the C17 that we could more easily do without? The rare occasions that we need the out-size dimensions of the C17 don’t actually justify operating our own fleet; that’s where we should be buying in flying hours, as and when needed.
    If British C17 are being used more often than not to shift passengers and other loads which are easily within the capacity of the A330, then we probably need more A330 to operate alongside the A400; a two type aircraft fleet rather than three.

  27. wf

    @Brian Black: lets face it, we leased the 4 C17 because we were endlessly borrowing C5 and C17 from the US. I don’t think we need question the need for an outsize capability, it’s just what size of said capability we need to worry about.

    A more pertinent point is probably that since we really cannot aspire to transport more than CVR(T) / Bronco vehicles over long distances, what aircraft can do so most economically given that A400 is probably too large for light intra-theatre shuttling? Let’s face it, that says C17 to me

  28. Mark

    Topman

    Was the wing and a portion of the aft fuse I was involved with not the under carriage but did get some briefings on the undercarriage performance which were pretty satisfactory to the user requirements. Rough field testing has only really started.

    The ila airshow this week should perhaps provide an update and baring any last minute issues the a400m will perform a flying routine.

    Brian you mean the French model.

  29. arkhangelsk

    @wf
    At the time the lease was initiated (as opposed to after Afghanistan), Britain seemed to be kind of in an uncomfortable borderline status when it comes to heavy-transport usage. The estimate is for under 1,000 C-17 hours a year, or over 100 flights a year, which is too much (politically) to just keep asking for favors from USAF or to just keep chartering An-124 but not really enough to justify an independent full-time fleet either.

    Sharing and buying flying hours would seem to be a compromise.

  30. jedibeeftrix

    “It will be able to lift 20 tonnes from Ascension to Mount Pleasant.”

    And pretty much 20t back to the UK from Ascension.

    Bloody god-send that island!

    Great series Admin.

  31. Fluffy Thoughts

    Euro-Turkey: Why we should not buy A400M.

    HMAF are moving to a more expeditionary role. This cannot be accomodated by an aircraft that can transport a single 37-tonne vehicle (non-TES) from Brize to Turkey*! Even the FI’s require a stop-off at Ascencion empty by the over-weight transport.

    With C-17 and C-130J we can move light forces – our only immediate intervention resources – into foreign, non-litoral fields as a containment operation. Where the litoral exists we have Albions, Bays and Points to off-load fully-kitted medium-to-heavy armour, all ready for action.

    The problem with Euro-Turkey is it leaves another requirement – often met by proposed C27J/C295 mini-transports – theatre transportation unfulfilled. This requirement is/can be met by C130J at a lower cost.

    I’m with Solomon on this: The Euro-Turkey is an EU-folly. [Truism?] A few extra C-17s, more C-130Js and a new batch of Bays/Points would enable the UK to move it’s heavy equipment to zones as-and-when-required. We do not intend to kick-in-doors for the foreseeable and, as such, the benefits of the A400M are an expense too far…!

    * Fourteen relay movements, then off to maintenance. Pfft!

  32. Simon257

    Quick qustion, How many British FOB’s in Afghanistan have airstrips, and receive regular supply deliverys by C130?

  33. x

    I don’t understand why everybody is so excited about moving one or two vehicles at 500kts. If all 20 A400m were available at once (which they won’t be) it still wouldn’t add up to a battalion (light on stores anyway). Before somebody risked £2billion of aircraft into theatre the strip is going have to be secure (probably by US Rangers or USMC.) Numbers count as Afghanistan has shown or does make a difference because this high end war? And does all this light vehicle business run contrary to the A400m primary user’s (BTW that is the Army not the RAF) vision of the future which is the rapid reaction armoured brigade (which is in itself bonkers.) If the Army’s new structure was centred on 3 x rapid reaction brigades using Bronco and CVT(R) type platforms it might make sense. We need 12 C130x enough to support SF and parachute training is what is needed; build on RAF expertise on type and shift the heavy work to somebody like Marshalls. And spend the rest on Chinook. Not £2billion more to be sunk into the great European project by the back door.

  34. S O

    @All Politicians are the Same

    You may not have noticed that the lighter vehicles you mentioned were often flown with civilian air transport into theatre without any problems.
    Our problem isn’t so much that we lack good medium and heavy airlift, but that our business communities simply did not pick up Il-76s, An-124s and stuff for commercial air freight operations. We could do well without much military airlift even in our stupid military adventures overseas if only a Western airline or two had two dozen Il-76s and half a dozen An-124 in total.

    You may not have noticed that there’s a widely perceived need for more small tactical (and really military) STOL transport aircraft, resulting in C-27J orders, many CN-235 customers, C-295 exports, continued An-32 production and the re-use of antique transport aircraft such as a Caribou over Afghanistan.

  35. Simon257

    @ X

    Couldn’t agree with you more, on trying to airlift a Brigades worth of kit to anywhere in the world in a short period of time.

    It would be much better for the UK, if it was to purchase 2 USNS Bob Hope sized sealift ships. Each ship, loaded with all the necessary equipment to field a large Army Expeditionary Force and also the ground equipment for an RAF Expeditionary Force. Base one in Gibraltor/Cyprus and the other in Deigo Garcia.

    The reason, I would go for something like a Bob Hope over a Point, is that most of the equipment would be carried in inside the ship in a controlled environment.

    However, back to the topic in hand. Lockheed have had plenty of time to comeback with a C130XL. Is it because the USAF, are not interested in buying a A400 sized airlifter or that LM may want to build license build the A400 themselves, for the US Military?

  36. x

    @ Simon257

    The US operate 175 C17 plus other lifters along with C130 (they have 77 C130J). The US are struggling to find a role for C27. Why? They have lots of Chinook and CH53, with MV22 coming along too for that extra range and speed if not lift. They don’t need a 30t lifter because they have more than enough lift.

    I was being naughty mentioning ships. It isn’t really fair comparing apples with bananas. I just find it amusing how excited everybody is at the capability to move one container using £100million platform to do it.

    We can’t afford to do everything. If we want to keep the US on side we need, unfortunately, to push our resources to the front.

  37. x

    £2billion would buy 2 C17, 12 C130x, and 22 extra Chinook.

    How is the Parachute Regiment doing these days getting its new lads parachuted qualified?

    How many C130 do we have in Afghanistan at the moment? How often do they parachute stuff because there isn’t a Chinook available? More often than 2 Chinook going somewhere because a C130 isn’t available I should wager.

    If the C130 in the UK aren’t helping to train the Army’s finest what do they spend their time doing? Beyond exercising do they have a real role? Do we have any C130 in Cyprus?

  38. Simon257

    @ X

    Not naughty at all to bring ships into it. But something to discuss post Afghanistan perhaps?

    The USAF has been trying to curtail further C17 orders for a couple of years, but Congress disagrees with them and keeps on ordering them. Though how much of that is due to internal US politics is open to debate?

    The USAF has never wanted the C27, ever and has done its level best to kill the project from the start. As it was the US Army that felt it needed it.

    The USAF Non C130J Fleet must surely be coming to the end of their live, so they either they keep on ordering more J’s or they look for something else.

    Let’s face it, we’ve been at war for 11 years now and HMG have never funded HM Armed Forces properly, have they? Otherwise the RAF, would be flying a dam-site more C17′s and CH47′s than we currently have!

    It was US Def. Sec. Rumsfeld who came up with “Do more with Less!” and both Labour and the Conservatives have taken that quote to heart!

    @ S O

    Thank you for that. Would you know if the RAF, do multiple airdrops on regular resupply runs?

  39. x

    @ Simon257

    The US government is very much a collection of fiefdoms that make UK inter-departmental divisions look like small beer.

  40. Simon257

    @ X

    One problem is that the top job position of the RAF, always goes to a FJ Pilot.

    Parachute Training, now that is a good question, that needs to be asked!

  41. Jeremy M H

    @ arkhangelsk

    I am fairly firm on the premium I would pay. You list the advantages the A400M has, and they are real, but I also realize that for a certain set of missions I don’t need that full capacity, I just need an airframe right now and I am only willing to reduce my numbers for these type of planes so far if I am the US. I won’t take a 50% reduction in the force even if I had the same gross lifting capability because in many scenarios it will be more useful for me to have more aircraft around to do the jobs I need done.

    Many of the advantages of the A400M are offset by me not getting to have as many around and them not being nearly as disposable if I need to use them in high risk environments. I want to be able to lose a few in certain situations. Here is how I came up with the numbers I did in my initial post.

    By my very quick count the US has 772 C-130′s and variants in operation. If we limit our look to the 470ish or so pure transport planes of the USAF I would say I would be willing to run that force down to 350-375 if I got more capability out of the planes. However my other stuff I really can’t knock back at all. Those are gunships, electronic warfare aircraft of some flavor, special forces aircraft, weather planes, Marine tankers and so on where the numbers needed are pretty much fixed by operational reality.

    In the end the military has a lot of needs and I don’t want to blow my money on this capability. If you want me to buy A400M’s instead of C-130J’s as the US Military then I want to spend roughly the same amount of cash on that force over its lifetime. That means I can afford to pay a premium that is basically equal to the amount of platforms I can take out of active service due to capability increases. I would be comfortable cutting the C-130 force by anywhere from 10-20% based on the above so that is the amount more I can afford to pay you.

    I can’t justify paying anymore because that capability jump, while nice, does not make the thing a C-17 replacement. It is just a high end C-130 replacement.

  42. Jeremy M H

    @Simon

    It is hard to know if the US wanted more C-17′s or not based on what the DoD ask congress for. If they know a program will get political cover it makes sense to not ask for it and then let the politicians stick it back in as extra spending.

  43. The Other Chris

    If only we’d have picked CTOL CVF we could land these A400M’s on the deck and deliver the Storm Shadows to fit inside the F-35′s internal bay in order to replace the NGS requirement of the T26…

  44. Desk Jockey

    Nice post, but it does miss some of the commercial benefits of A400M. I don’t mean the industrial benefits, which were covered in the previous post more the commercial stuff that has a direct impacts on operations.

    The Europeans are settling up a whole fleet support chain concept similar to that used by the C-17 and C-130 fleets. This is of course in its infancy, but should A400M get a load of export customers then there are loads of supply depots and economies of scale benefits to be had. Some of this will be able to piggyback on the existing Airbus supply chain. It will never rival the US supply chains for size, but once set up it does provide an alternative without needing silly money to do it.

    The other big commercial draw is ITAR. People forget just what a pig of a law it is and the fact it can have severe limits on supporting ops. A400M has tried to be as ITAR free as possible, this will also be a big selling point to potential export customers. C-17 works for the UK because it is used in a way the US can approve of and because the UK has sacrificed any ability to influence the platform design, modifications or tactical equipment fit. A400M is meant to overcome these limits for the European and export partners thus giving them more options at a tactical level as well as saving on a shed load of red tape!

    It isn’t just about size, it is about how you use it!

  45. Jeremy M H

    I don’t think you were ever going to land A400M’s on the deck of a carrier. They hardly got that C-130 down back when they did.

  46. x

    @ Jeremey re C130

    But isn’t the spin that A400m is the best of both worlds? It is better than C130, but can nearly do what C17 does. You are right it is what it is a bigger C130.

  47. IXION

    TOC

    ROLF

    In particular if we can get it to carry (that mythical wonder bird) FRES, then you have the jackpot. All of our flame wars in one post.

  48. x

    Apparently the US has has 203 total (70 C-17, 133 C-17ER) in inventory as of November 2010. 223 funded with 10 remaining on order in June 2010 according to Wikipedia.

    @ Jeremy M H re C130 on Forrestal

    Apparently the trial went very well. I used to think it was a stunt and didn’t look into it much. But after prompting here I looked more closely and it was amazing how much of a margin they had with those landings.

  49. Jeremy M H

    @X

    It went well but they basically had to clear the deck to get the thing down. The landing was not the problem really. It was the impact that such things have on flight operations that was the biggest problem. You certainly could do it. But not as part of regular operation. You would basically lose your flight deck for the period the thing is landing, aboard and taking off I would guess.

  50. Monty

    TD,

    Excellent article. Your point about how all types of military vehicles have grown in weight is well made. But is it unequivocal that we need an aircraft with a greater capacity than the C-130J presently offers? I am not sure it is.

    One capability we do need is the ability to fly into rough airfields carrying Foxhounds, Jackals and Vikings, so that we can deploy some level of protected mobility immediately. C-130s can do this without a problem. That being the case, I tend to prefer a mixed fleet of more C-17s and C-130Js, especially if that gives us a higher total number of aircraft than C-17s and A400s. A significantly lower C-130J purchase price should more than compensate for the increased cost of the C-17 versus the A400.

    That said, an important factor is that many of our C-130s are reaching the end of their airframe lives. We need new aircraft anyway. If that’s correct, you have to ask what Lockheed Martin is doing to upgrade the C-130? If it can produce a new aircraft with a substantially enlarged fuselage / cargo hold and with a 30-40% increase in load capacity, why not go for that, especially if it is cheaper than an A400?

    That would be an interesting option. But as far as I know, the C-130M or whatever they call it will merely be an incremental upgrade. in which case, I cannot see why anyone would buy one instead of an A400. The A400 may be exact aircraft that the next iteration of the C-130 should have been and maybe soon everyone will be buying them.

  51. x

    @ Jeremy M H

    Yes totally impractical. But C130 performed well within parameters and that is what makes it interesting.

  52. S O

    About payloads

    contrary to simplistic spec sheets, the story of airlift is rather complicated.

    (1) individual aircraft/helicopters vary in their performance due to engine or (helos) gearbox inefficiencies which vary. Some aircraft fall short by a couple per cent power output, and even usually fine ones occasionally have a bad day with a minor technical issue reducing their output.
    So we should always consider about 5% of payload as a precaution margin, not to be exploited regularly.

    (2) Performance drops badly under hot or high conditions, and also somewhat with sand filters.

    (3) Payload weight is rarely the problem. Almost all air lift ops are restricted (if at all) by volume or weight distribution and dimensions (such as height) are the more typical no-go problem than the weight of a single object.

  53. SomewhatInvolved

    As always TD, a fascinating article, cheers.

    Frankly I don’t see the problem. Our kit is getting bigger and heavier – fact. Much of it no longer fits into the standard tactical airlifter. So what’s the problem buying a bigger aircraft to do the same job? The C17 is expensive, and is restricted in where it can go, so why not have a truly multi-role aircraft that can do everything from shift one pallet to a hoofing great Mastiff or other protected vehicle?

    And buying European is no problem as far as I’m concerned. British jobs and British industry benefit – better that that the US taxpayer.

  54. Phil

    Seems a no brainer to me. I must admit prior to this article I didn’t think the A400M offered much more than a C130 but I am very happy to admit it offers a hell of a lot.

    Looks beautiful and I am sure it will be a solid workhorse.

  55. Jeremy M H

    @SI

    The problem comes when you spend the money here and don’t have it to spend on say…Maritime Patrol Aircraft or another Astute Class submarine.

  56. Mike

    Good post TD.

    “Kawasaki C-1′s or Embraer KC-390′”
    The 390 is still a paper product atm, with partner nations that will make A400 and Typhoon multi-nation mess-ups look like childrens party…
    The Kawassaki C1 is no longer in production, and the airframes produced were a let down for the JSDF; the next gen C2 is still in pre-production… has been for a while, not to mention its designed solely for japaneese specs.

    I like TD’s pointer on the ever expanding size and weights of kit, as I said in the last post; heavy fixed wing lift will need to do the first reaction lifting until the ships get there…

    I’d still strongly argue for a small C-130J unit though.

  57. x

    120t in one week which is 6 flights for a C130 and 10 flights for CH47. It seems more airframes are needed not few big ones. All that experience on type lost too.

    I wonder how many drops are done for tactical reasons more than just can’t land the aeroplane anywhere? And that leads me to ask is C130 being used because CH47 isn’t available in sufficient numbers? And which is the more maintenance intensive CH47 or C130?

  58. Phil

    Why are you comparing a support helicopter to an inter and intra theatre fixed wing transport? I don’t see Chinooks being able to move thousands of blokes and loads of cargo from Minab to Bastion or whatever the future equivalent will be.

    It’s a cargo plane, since when did the need to fly cargo become an opportunity for some double loop paradigm shifting learning?

    CH47s can’t maintain an air bridge. And increasingly C130 is becoming ever more restricted in its ability to do so. A400M seems to offer the chance to ensure we have effective air bridges well into the future.

  59. Mike W

    TD

    Superb post, TD. Through copious and painstakingly researched examples you have proved beyond any doubt that our land equipment is becoming larger and heavier and needs a bigger aircraft to transport it. Like Phil, I was still somewhat dubious about the merits of the A400M but the article has changed my thinking. I think his (Phil’s) comment sums it up: “Seems a no brainer to me. I must admit prior to this article I didn’t think the A400M offered much more than a C130 but I am very happy to admit it offers a hell of a lot.” Also agree about its looks!

    It becomes terribly confusing when trying to compare the two planes in terms of range and speed (so many different figures given) and obviously much depends upon payload but I think the A400M has considerable advantages in those two areas too. Am prepared to be proved wrong.

  60. WiseApe

    @ The Other Chris – “If only we’d have picked CTOL CVF we could land these A400M’s on the deck and deliver the Storm Shadows to fit inside the F-35′s internal bay in order to replace the NGS requirement of the T26…” – I’m getting such a strong feeling of deja vu it’s spooky!

    Anyone know how the yanks are going to deliver F135 engines to their carriers, they won’t fit inside a C2? No it’s not off topic, it’s air transport! :-)

    @SI – nail on the head there; we have to replace our C130s so why not go for something bigger, faster and which puts at least some work our way. Besides, don’t LM have their hands full at the moment?

  61. x

    @ Phil

    Well if you had been here earlier I had been discussing how much the cost of 20 A400m buys in terms of C130x and CH47.

    Without know where C130 is dropping these stores etc. we don’t know if a helicopter could or couldn’t have done it. I don’t believe for a moment there isn’t overlap that C130 is doing CH47 work because the latter isn’t available. We also discussed buying more conventional freighters and more C17.

    Don’t panic. We all know you service types would endorse anything the MoD pushed out without really questioning it. We have ‘planes, they need replacing without question…..

  62. All Politicians are the Same

    Does anyone actually know how much we are paying for an A400M?
    I know TD quotes 140 million but the article below seems to infer that soemof the sunk costs which lead to the 140 million per aircraft tag will be repaid.
    http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,225094,00.html

    Edit,

    Though I belive they have dropped a 0 from the unit price attributed to partner nations.
    The 110 million euros ties in with other things I have heard.

  63. Mark

    APAS

    If development spend is included then the UK budget for procuring 22 a/c with 3 options is just over 3b pounds and I think this includes the new hanger and training centre at brize norton and all things associated with a new fleet. The lower number 110m euro would I think be buying just the a/c itself.

    As part of the re negotiated deal with airbus all partner nation will get a percentage of any future a/c sales.

  64. All Politicians are the Same

    Mark, That is what I was getting at. Any future sales will see a percentage paid back to the partner nations up to a limit that would see them having spent 110 million euros per airframe.

  65. Chris.B.

    “Does anyone actually know how much we are paying for an A400M?”

    Doing a bit of research, the South Africans signed a deal in 2006 for eight aircraft, including some of the work share on the upper fuselage. The deal came to $308 million per aircraft. And that was 6 years ago. By 2009 the estimate was that the purchase price plus logistic package could top $495 million per plane.

  66. Phil

    “We have ‘planes, they need replacing without question…..”

    You’re really wearing out the old hard done by nobody in the service listens to me line.

    The A400M offers a real increase in capability. It is not marginal as I thought, it is a real tangible increase which arguably unlike the F35 and Typhoon is actually needed and determined by the ever increasing weights and ranges these planes are expected to cope with.

    I’ve never heard anyone even remotely suggest using CH47s to sustain an air-bridge which is thousands of miles long.

    I’d bet the farm that if C130s are are dropping supplies its for reasons OTHER than there not being any Chinooks. Flights around Helmand are very routine for support helicopters and the distances in the TF AO are small enough that Chinooks etc can make several bounces to and fro.

  67. All Politicians are the Same

    Malaysian order for 4 including training and logistics costs them 175 million pounds each. Using todays exchange rates.

  68. Chris.B.

    “Malaysian order for 4 including training and logistics costs them 175 million pounds each. Using todays exchange rates”

    Which is about $280 million dollars a piece. About double the $140 million price listed in the article.

  69. All Politicians are the Same

    Chris B, The price quoted in the article was 141 million pounds which is 225 million dollars. Also we hope to claw some of that back from our share of export sales and drive the final price down to teh agreed 90 million pounds or 110 million euro area.
    The Malaysian contract simply stated it included logistics and training but not huge amount of detail.

  70. Chris.B.

    Mark,
    The Indian deal was $962 million for six, and those were for special forces use. The deal included – amongst other things – six spare engines and 8 special operations suites, for an aircraft that was fresh into service, a problem we don’t have with Hercules.

    APATS,
    That just makes it worse.

  71. All Politicians are the Same

    Chris B,

    Not sure what makes it worse? That the Malaysian order is closer to what we paid or we paid more than you thought? You would be lucky to get a C130 with the support package our A400M has for 4140 million. Interestingly enough Malaysia is not buying them to replace their C130s but to carry things like helicopters and disaster relief equipment that their C130s cannot manage.
    The Indian order is reported in some place as $964 million and in other as $1.2 Billion
    http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/india-to-purchase-6-c130j-hercules-for-special-forces-02224/
    $964 million

    http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2010/12/30/Indias-first-C-130-heads-for-base-in-2011/UPI-54161293709020/
    $1.2 Billion

    Split the diference and we have the US charging $183 million dollars for a C130J and EADS $225 million for an A400M for export to Asia.
    Roughly speaking you get 5 C130J for 4 A400M.
    Now the figures are pretty rough and ready but as the A400 program matures we should be looking to drive costs down (so we get some money back) and also highlighting the masssive extra capability available for less cost difference than people think.

    Also when they neter service every opportunity should be taken during exercises etc to deominstrate them flying large loads long distances directly into strips that other startegic transports cannot land at and offloading kit tactical transports cannot carry.
    Even if it is not stricly required.

  72. Chris.B.

    @ APATS and Mark,

    The Indian parliament was given the $964 million figure. The $1.2bn is “estimated” on a US press release. I think that favours the lower figure. Again, it was for a relatively new system with a some expensive add ons for specialist work.

    As a veteran user of the Hercules many of those costs would not apply to us, for example; “… integration studies…. publications and technical documentation, …. personnel training and training equipment…. foreign liaison office support, Field Service Representatives’ services, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, and other related elements of logistics support”

    Most of that stuff we must either already have or I guess deemed not necessary with Hercules. There’s no way we’d end up paying $180 odd million for a Hercules, not with how long we’ve had it in service and how extensive our support system is for it now.

    As for “Interestingly enough Malaysia is not buying them to replace their C130s but to carry things like helicopters and disaster relief equipment that their C130s cannot manage”. And stuff that we have Globemaster for.

    I don’t doubt that Atlas is more capable than Hercules. It clearly is well ahead in the performance stakes. But it’s priced more like a Globemaster while falling short of that aircrafts performance. It seems like it’s built to fill the needs of some our allies and we’ve just tagged on to something that we don’t really need, for a price that doesn’t make sense.

  73. All Politicians are the Same

    ChrisB,

    We are buying 20 regardless. The more we sell abroad the cheaper our 20 get! A report to congress is hardly a press release.
    The A400 in terms of export orders seems to be priced closer to a C130 than a C17. How many countries actually need C17 capability is the question that people should be asking.

    I admit i was a sceptic before this article but have looking at the figures am slowly being converted. Maybe not for the UK but certainly for other countries and has the added attraction of being able to act as a tanker.

  74. Chris.B.

    The $1.2bn had “estimated” attached to it, and was part of a relatively short statement. The Indian government, the people actually paying for it, were told $964 million. I trust the official statement to the customers parliamentary body more.

    “The A400 in terms of export orders seems to be priced closer to a C130 than a C17″

    Canada picked up 17 stretched Herc J’s for about $80 million a piece, for an aircraft that was completely new into their service. Compared with what on average looks closer to $250-300 million a pop for Atlas. I’d say Atlas is coming a lot closer to Globemaster than Hercules for price.

    Now before we picked up Globemaster, Atlas was on the cards and would have taken the long range heavy lift. That I perhaps could have nodded at and said “alright”, even though for a bit extra cash you get the greater capability of the Globemaster. But now? It makes no sense.

    The 2008 NAO report into Hercules was very detailed and made the point that Hercules on operations is mainly doing what you saw in that video X posted; short flights, personnel shifts, a bit of light cargo movement. The problem was identified as a severe lack of airframes to cope with all the tasks, including training in the UK, not that the Hercules was incapable of lifting anything that really needed lifting.

  75. All Politicians are the Same

    Chris B, The Candians are buying them to replace E and H model Hercules. There does seem to be a big difference in price between buying a Hercy if you have never used them and if you have already have some but yes the Indians seem to have been slightly ripped off as the average price is closer to $100 million an air frame across the orders I have seen.
    Given TDs figure for export C17 at $500 million for a usable aircraft and support the A400M is somewhere in the middle. As it is for a lot of things.
    Where it should fight for sales are orders like the Malaysian order where they need something bigger than a C130 but either do not need a C17 or need the aircraft to have proper rough field capability.
    Throw in the tanker capability and it should sell if the price is about $200 million.
    As for the Uk, well my post ref whta will we use to fly around 3 pallets and a loady stands. Awaiting the next parts of a fascinating post.
    Relatively fascinating as it does not involve Ships.

  76. Chris.B.

    Delving further into that NAO report, they put the price of new Hercs at about £37 million, then you need to add on some defensive aids. You’re still talking a 2:1 ratio at least of Hercules over Atlas.

  77. All Politicians are the Same

    Chris B

    For the UK, it probably is a 2 to 1 ratio in terms of price.
    Funnily enough despite being a huge fan of the A400 and believing that if the price can be held for export models at around $200 million it offers all the capability 95% of the countries in the world need from a stratetigic lifter and tanker. I cannot help but think it is less of a good fit for us.

  78. Chris.B.

    Well prior to the C-17 purchase it could easily be argued that Atlas was perfect. It will fly the commercial routes, it will carry everything except maybe the AS90 and Challenger (but then if you’re relying on airlift to move those you have bigger problems than what aircraft they fly in, except in some rare cases), and it would have basically done everything that we expected from a heavy, strategic lift aircraft, for a price less than C-17.

    But now?

    Thanks to the delays we’ved ended up with 8 Globemaster and given that we have the support system in place for that, it’s possible we could bring in future C-17′s at a competitive price based on a multi-aircraft tender, and with some C-130′s stick to a two tier transport fleet (Voyager excluded, thanks to the PFI that will severely limit it’s capabilities to just personnel and the odd bit of pallet cargo).

    From a cold start, head to head, you might take the Atlas because like you said, it’s the 95% solution. Now though? I think the boat has sailed somewhat.

  79. Jeremy M H

    @APATS

    I am with you. I think the A400M makes a lot of sense for most nations that are using it for both a tanker and their only lifter. It strikes me that the UK has one or two projects too many in this general area. The C-17 buy, the tanker program and the A400M all seem to be stepping on one another and don’t compliment one another well at all.

  80. Simon257

    Hi TD,
    Again an excellent article, can’t wait for part 3. On Defence Industry Daily, they have posted an update on the C130J, which is well worth a look.

  81. Think Defence Post author

    On costs, as you we all know, it really is difficult to compare because of the apples and apples scenario but don’t forget, the A400M programme costs include not only the aircraft but development (of both aircraft and engine), initial logistics, training school etc. The actual unit price of an A400 will be much lower than the £140m (programme cost divided by 22)

    The C130J has cost us much more than the initial sticker price as well, not just DAS but all sorts of additional costs.

    I still dont think we can say an A400 equals two C130J’s and to be honest, even if it did, so what.

    The A400M can do much more in every area than a C130J so you could have a hundred C130J’s but you still couldn’t do x or y that the A400 requirements say.

    Think about this for a minute…

    The C130K entered RAF service in 1967, just as we were withdrawing from Aden. Go and look at images from the period, vehicles, equipment, aircraft, even how infantry were dressed.

    Hold those images

    Now do the same for Afghanistan, today

    The C130 hold dimensions haven’t changed since then (length changes accepting)

    This is the 4 tonner/SV all over, sometimes you just have to accept a step change is required and then after, you wonder how you managed without it for so long

  82. Alex

    I’m increasingly convinced the whole “total programme cost” thing conceals far more than it reveals. If you want to tot up the costs of flying training, maintenance, spares, infrastructure, and airframes, nothing stops you.

    But in the other direction, if you get a big-num representing “everything vaguely to do with A400M” you can’t disaggregate it easily, and if you can’t disaggregate the costs, you can’t keep the contractor from stuffing the bill…further, it’s far too easy to accordion it by changing what is included and what is assumed (for example, interest rates or fuel prices in the distant future, or deciding to include pensions for personnel who spent 50% of their time on the A400M rather than 30% or 80%).

    I think government is far too keen on “roll all your services into one easy payment!” offers. Businesses that do product bundling do so because it obfuscates the actual price of their products (think mobile phone price plans). This goes triple if there is financing involved (think those horrible BrightHouse shops selling TVs to the poor on HP), when you have the further parameters of the interest rate and the repayment period to fiddle with.

    Total programme cost + Prime contractor model = Epic cost inflation (or capability erosion, depending on whether the inflation is accomodated or the order is cut).

  83. Fedaykin

    Think Defence and Chris.B hit it on the head really.

    Firstly the C130 cargo box is the same now as it was in 1967, they might of stretched some of them and the engines can haul more into the air then there is space in the hold but if the load is too wide or high forget it!

    I do wonder why people obsess over hauling a tank into the air, an APC maybe but a full MBT?! As Chris.B points out things are seriously wrong if we are trying to load an aircraft with 70tons of tank! Anyhow the Point Class fast RoRo was purchased specifically to do that kind of work. If you are deploying a heavy armoured brigade then the RoRo is the best choice considering the logistics chain that has to go with them. Actually to trickle the tanks out in aircraft would take longer then just deploying on a fast RoRo!

  84. Challenger

    @TD

    It must be difficult to try and find a price per unit for the A400 because as you say the cost has all the development work and initial training and logistics thrown in.

    I’m assuming the unit price would have been less if we had ordered more from the start? Are the German and French airframes going to be noticeably cheaper?

  85. paul g

    just out of interest, those first 4 C-17′s how much have they been hammered and how many flying hours does the frames have left? factor into that how many hours are they using per annum now, in respect to 2014, when should tail off a bit. Then again how many hours will they rack up getting whatever we are bringing back to the UK, back? i can’t see everything coming back by road/rail/sea.

  86. Fedaykin

    I believe C17 seven and eight were purchased for the RAF mainly to help balance airframe life for the first six rather then an increase in capacity per-say!

  87. Chris.B.

    “I still dont think we can say an A400 equals two C130J’s and to be honest, even if it did, so what”

    Hmmm, I think the Atlas will have to pull off something special to come in under the price of two Herc J’s.

    It’s not really about lift though is it. We have C-17 now for the over sized stuff. Hercs appear to be mainly used to run around small supply packets (under ten tons), and short distance passenger work. The main problem seems to be not enough Hercs, which is a problem that Atlas is never going to solve.

  88. Phil

    Perhaps but herein lies an opportunity to develop procedures and capabilities in line with the increased capabilities of the A400M. Who says we will use the A400M in the same manner we use the Hurc?

  89. Challenger

    The price of the A400 and the relative merits of it and the Hercules aside…

    I keep thinking about the implications of having only 22 airframes in service as opposed to the 40+ that were available until recently.

    Apologises if this has been covered before, but the Hercules have been pushed to the limit in supporting Herrick and seem to have been left in a pretty sorry state as a result.

    I’m well aware that post 2014 we won’t be looking for any comparable long enduring operation, but that doesn’t mean it definitely won’t occur, plus it’s mandated in the SDSR to retain the ability to commit to a medium sized, rotational deployment.

    So my convoluted and confused point is that significantly fewer airframes are going to have an impact on maintenance and service hours. No matter how capable 22 A400 may be they are still going to be doing the job that significantly more aircraft have done previously.

    I guess it’s a bit like Type 45. They may be a quantum leap in capability over their predecessors but 6 hulls will struggle to do the job of 12, they just cannot be in 2 places at once. Those 6 are going to be worked far harder than expected and I think the A400 could well share the same fate.

    Let’s buy some second hand (though still fairly new) German airframes when the opportunity arises!

  90. All Politicians are the Same

    Challenger, here is hoping that the overlap between the intro of A400 and exit of the C130 combined with some export orders and refunds from EADS will allow us to end up with a balanced fleet.
    My thought is that the C17/A400M mix may best be complimented by something smaller and cheaper than the C130.

  91. Swimming Trunks

    @ Challenger – my fear as well. TD’s excellent articles have done a good job of selling the Atlas as a Herc replacement but numbers do matter.

    But how do you get more numbers without sending huge ammounts. One possibly is to try and “push up” capabilities from below with a Chinnook replacement but that entails risks/costs. Another is to “add-on” to a possible MPA replacement which can”swing role”. Any other ideas?

  92. Brian Black

    The prospect of a small fixed-wing utility aircraft to complement the A400 doesn’t seem too wild. We’ve had discussions about MPA and manned ISTAR, and the idea of a light cargo aircraft -capable of trucking a variety of palletised role equipment- has often come up.

    Would any of you who are saying that without Hercs RAF lift is becoming too heavy, change your mind about the A400 if a C295-a-like entered service too? Or would the A400 still be a no-no?

  93. Jeremy M H

    I think the A400 might make sense in that role but for the most part I believe the US found it was no less expensive to just operate their C-130′s instead of C-27′s. I can’t imagine the C295 would change that equation much. For a while at least it would likely make just as much sense to cannibalize what C-130′s you do have and keep a fleet of those operating.

    Of course the major issue there is that now you are operating 4 types of aircraft as tankers/transports (A330, C-17, A400M, C-130/C295). My issues with the A400M are not really a standalone for this program. It is when they are combined with the tanker deal and the C-17′s that it starts to look like a giant cluster screw to me.

  94. Mark

    Total Fleet numbers are not the critical number. Its force elements at readiness for uk tasking requirements. Whats the availability on herc like in the current fleet? How many hours do we get out of one each day and how many aircraft are available for task from the fleet and how would that compare with 22 a400m. How many personnel support the current herc fleet and how many in future will support A400m and how does that fit into the future RAF manning requirement. Will a400m require less training than herc or how would additional hercs effect the future training fleet. As modern military a/c become more reliable and sims improve the crew to plane ratio could increase (some could be rauxf as these cockpits are very similar to civil airbus ones) like has been the case in the civil world for many years.

    I suspect the future little brother post maybe involve a c-295 possibly dual hatted as a mpa.

  95. Topman

    I wonder where the three Bae 146 will end up. As they are still a UOR they will be desposed of come 2015. However I wonder if there is some use in them for years to come. 32 Sqn are a lot busier than people think, they keep a lot of their deteachments out of the media, I think that some use can be made of them. People talk of being something smaller to fit in below the C-130 I think it’s best to use what we have and more of it if we can as for reasons obvious. The C-130 often hop around Europe perfroming short trips with fairly low loads although that isn’t all their work load enough but in my opinion enough to keep them in service.

    @ Mark

    ‘How many personnel support the current herc fleet and how many in future will support A400m and how does that fit into the future RAF manning requirement. Will a400m require less training than herc or how would additional hercs effect the future training fleet. ‘

    What sort of manning per 1000 FH (or however Airbus have worked it out) is the A400M looking at at the moment? Alot will be by RAF manning, nevertheless that number would be informed by Airbus and their estimates, Mark did you ever come across such numbers?

  96. Mark

    Topman

    I have not seen figures broken down that far only to inspection intervals. But they may well be contained in the a400m technical specification document which is not open source information.

    BAE146 are interesting choices it will be interesting to see how they perform.

    Jeremy

    The c17/a400m/a330 purchases make sense if you look at almost any lessons learned report of any uk or NATO operation (excluding US assets) going back years and I bet AAR and strategic transport will figure very high up a list of capability shortfalls.

  97. Challenger

    @Topman

    A good point on the BAE 146, I’m not sure if they will be retained post 2015 either, but I think it’s better to utilise and possibly expand a current aircraft type rather than introduce something new in-to the mix. I’m sure we could pick up a few more on the cheap and use them as short-hop, light transports.

    @Swimming Trunks

    Although expensive and problematic I’m sure the Atlas will eventually prove to be a very capable aircraft that offers several advantages over the Hercules.

    I would be keen to look at pushing existing capabilities rather than introducing another new aircraft type.

    As I said perhaps some second-hand A400 will be going for a reasonable price? Or maybe a small amount of C-130J retained and upgraded, theoretically for SF but actually also used for some general transport/cargo work? How about a few more BAE 146? I think their are plenty of options worth considering.

    If it was a new aircraft type then I definitely agree on it being swing-role with something like MPA.

  98. Jeremy M H

    @Mark

    I agree that those are areas of shortfall but I don’t think the present combination was the best way to address it. One of the three shouldn’t be there in my view or at the very least should be a cheap program rather than a new unit purchase. It is just too much money tied up in one area for my taste given all the other cuts that have been made.

    Somewhere in that list the UK could have done with less than the best and less than brand new. Everyone else did for the most part. The US, Australia and Canada lived with the C-130. Germany looks like they plan to live with the A400M as their tanker and have no C-17′s. The French are making do with their KC-135′s and A400M’s as tankers and no C-17′s.

    No one is going all in on brand new equipment in all three categories. When the UK does that and then can’t afford say Maritime Patrol Aircraft I start to wonder where the problem is and it strikes me that the UK overbought here. Even the US is not going with all new and high end for these needs. The UK is and other areas of the defense budget are being left to suffer badly.

  99. Mark

    Jeremy

    Australia and France are acquiring a330 tanker aircraft. Australia has also purchased c17 and France is buying twice as many a400m as the uk.

    The cost of a400m and c17 is over 1b pounds less than the type 45 destroyer program and a330 has no upfront cost.

  100. Jeremy M H

    Australia also went the cheap route on tactical transport sticking with the C-130 instead of the A400M.

    France opted out of C-17 class aircraft (and also has not signed for the A330 tanker yet). I will be a believer in the A330 tanker buy when they actually sign the contract. They pussyfooted around with many projects over the years and managed to stretch out the buy of the Charles DeGaulle out over the course of 12 years of start and stop work. Even if they do buy it they still did not go all in across the spectrum like the UK has.

    Like it or not the UK is on an island in regards to what it elected to do here. It went the most expensive routes possible across the board.

  101. Topman

    @Mark

    ‘But they may well be contained in the a400m technical specification document which is not open source information. ‘

    I’m sure they’ve done the figures and now doubt they’ve compared it to the C-130 manning/running costs and spent a lot of time doing so. So no surprise they’ve kept it under wraps.

    @ Mark/Challenger

    ‘BAE146 are interesting choices it will be interesting to see how they perform.’

    32 Sqn have a understandable low profile, but the little I do hear about them it’s only good things. Some really do sing it’s praises although how objective that is I don’t know. In a wider sense across the world, I’m not sure it sold as many as perhaps should have. You hear very little about cutting back on the Bae 146 and they are under a fair bit of demand I think that tells it’s own story. I think there is a role for them beyond 2015.

  102. Mark

    Topman

    Occar should have that analysis also as airbus will have supplied it to them on a400m. Competitive intelligence is most certainly done.

    I think 32 Sqn often doesnt gets enough credit. Dont really know a great deal other than some press articles but I think they get very unfairly linked with pm travel ect when they’ve been deployed on mid east ops for years.

  103. All Politicians are the Same

    Mark , No A330 will merely suck us dry for years and we are not allowed to utilse it the A400m to their full potential because of the contract.

    Like for like please, comparing the cost of a transport programme to the worlds most advanced AAW Destroyer!
    the 4 MARS tankers at 450 million for 4 or the 4 Bays (never should have sold one) at a similar price would be a better comparison.

  104. Mark

    Apas

    Can the navy tanker refuel over the north Atlantic and over afghan and transit the globe in 24hrs:)

    Jeremy was complaining it was a high spec requirement. I was merely pointing out it not a huge spend when considered in the round against other high spec requirements. Add in waves and stores ships would be possible a fair comparison.

    I would not have gone pfi but the price does include fuel ect and is about the price per plane NATO is paying for global hawk, would have considered a direct lease from airbus first though. Im not entirely sure it does stop us using a400m in the tanker role I’ve heard rumours its not quite as popularly portrayed.

  105. Jeremy M H

    @Mark

    I would not say complaint so much as criticism of priorities. The UK has decided it has a much different and much higher cost need in a pretty concentrated area (air mobility generally) and I just don’t see it. No other nation has made the same decisions as the UK despite chances to do so. Because of that I question whomever set the spending priorities for the UK.

  106. John Hartley

    I got into the wooden mock up of the A400 all those years ago at Farnborough. Took me a while to realise the small red frame represented the size of the C-130. It looked tiny inside the A400 bay. So I like the A400, but looking at the Douglas C-133 Cargomaster of the 1950s/60s, that could lift 49 tons for around 1000 miles, though usual payload was 24 tons over 4000 miles. So why is a 2012 A400 limited to 37 tons when a 1956 C-133 could carry 49 tons?
    I think the 10 short body RAF C-130J should be given the same radar & EO turret of the US Coastguard versions. This can do maritime patrol/SAR, yet is still able to do transport tasks, as the cargo hold remains intact.
    Medium tasks to the 22 new A4ooM
    Large loads on the 8 C-17.
    So a 40 strong airlift fleet of small, medium & large.
    All we then need to do is bring back the crime of treason to deal with all those connected with the A330 Voyager fiasco.

  107. Chris.B.

    @ Mark,

    “Total Fleet numbers are not the critical number. Its force elements at readiness for uk tasking requirements. Whats the availability on herc like in the current fleet?”

    According to the NAO it’s around 85-94% available to fly planned missions in Afghanistan, but less at home (between 72-75%), as support and staffing is prioritised to maintain operations.

    And you of all people should know that a larger total fleet number gives you an advantage in providing FE@R. If we pick up 22 Atlas, how many can you deploy to theatre? 1 in 4? That’s 6 aircraft. Back in ’08 we had a total Herc fleet numbering around 50, and they struggled to maintain committments on operations while still providing enough hours for training at home. It would be a reasonable punt to suggest that a fleet half the size will have a harder time.

    Now in theory, the Atlas can carry more so you could argue that it could shift the same amount of material with less airframe hours used. But it appears that the majority of the work being done by the Hercules is short haul work, carrying less than its maximum capacity (including a lot of air drops to ease pressure off the Chinooks). Atlas’s larger payload capacity would be rendered irrelevant if it had to replace the Hercules role for role in this kind of operation.

    In that regard, maybe Brian Black is right. Maybe you could gradually phase out C-130 and replace it with something smaller like C-295 or C-27?

    I know the colonials didn’t get on well with the C-27, but then they have more C-130′s than we have fixed wing aircraft in the entire RAF, and that’s before we get on to helicopters.

  108. All Politicians are the Same

    @Chris B

    Wiki and I hate to use it reports the Phillipines have ordered 3 C27 for $45 million each.

  109. Mark

    Chrisb

    I think your fleet of 50 hercs in 2008 was prob closer to 35 and probably be closer to 30 or less for the last couple of years. 50 has been a very notional number for some time. But say your larger fleet of hercs had 24 a/c available and the a400m had 18 available. But if my 18 carries more flys faster and doesn’t need to stop as much on longer flights do I have possibly more capability to meet post sdsr requirements. Available crews prob have more to do with numbers deployed than total a/c numbers.

    Jeremy

    We’re spending less on the transport a/c than France are spending on there fleet prob less than Germany and uk spent more trying to acquire 9 mpa a/c than there spending buying a400m. We spent more on subs and aaw ships than France or Australia also but that’s not to critise that it’s just where are priorities are different to others.

  110. All Politicians are The same

    There are some other problems with reducing aircraft fleet numbers.

    At the moment we have a VC10 tanker and a C130 permanently in the Falklands . Will we want to base an A330 and a A400 down South?

    Now I know the argument could be that we keep on a VC10 and C130 but what do the crews do when not down South? How do they stay current when rotated out as per the RAF deployment roster? How do we justify the spares, maintenance and training burden for such a small aircraft number?

    We could takeaway the tanker capability but that reduces the ability to maintain a CAP with the small number of Typhoon we have there.

    If we had an A400 tanker capable we could use one air frame but we will not.

    I am sure the issue has been addressed but would love to see the thought process and outcome.

  111. Mark

    Apas

    I agree with you on the falkland. It seems madness to have one of our a330 down there when a400m could possibly do the job on its own.

    I would like the see the 3 options exercised and the fleet of a400m kept at 25 with 1 in the Falklands as tanker transport. With vc10 and herc k out of service in the next 12 months we soon know.

  112. Topman

    A longer OSD for the Vc10 will be on the back burner for the FI. The A330 AAR trials haven’t gone very well for Tornado (so far) and it’s not even started on Typhoon beyond a couple of dry runs. I don’t think it will be a show stopper, hopefully once cleared on the GR4 it shouldn’t be too long to get the Typhoon done since they have the same IFR probe tip. Although from what I’ve heard Air Tanker consortium have a few problems at their end.

  113. x

    @ Mark

    It all depends on how often these aircraft are moving large vehicle sized objects onto dirt strips. If all they are moving is pallets of stuff onto tarmac I would contend A300 freighter lifting 70t betters A400m. I wonder how many supply drops in Afghanistan have been full 20t loads? (I will lump cargo and delivery system into one to make my life simple.) In that BFBS they made special mention of a drop of only 2.5t. And I said above I wonder how many C130 drops are made because there aren’t Chinook available (whether because of maintenance or not enough quall’ed pilots or whatever reason.) Despite one of our service types trying to be clever with one of his supercilious comments inferring I don’t know what I am on about I still think C130 covering for CH47 happens and happens often.) And once more it doesn’t matter how wonderful a platform is it can only be in one place at one time.

    All for a smaller Army having greater mobility. If 80,000 can be supported 20 bigger planes over 100,000 being supported by 30 smaller planes then all well and good. Pallets not containers or armoured vehicles are what the Army and RN need moving the majority of the time. I don’t know perhaps C130s are landing all over Afganistan all the time off loading Jackal and ISO containers. Perhaps for GW1 and GW2 I was mistaken and the majority of vehicles and stores in TEU containers were flown in. I think not; vehicles are moved by sea and rail and air freighted stores arrive on pallets. It seems most British bases have trouble securing out to less than the effective range of the 5.56 beyond their walls; never mind securing a landing strip for C130 to touch down and be off loaded. That these bases live on a knife edge you would think more helicopter lift both for stores and reserves would be more welcome. Even if C130 is just a taxi between the larger bases when I see footage they never seem full. It always seems to be barely enough passengers to fill a biz jet and a few pallets of stores. So again I ask to tarmac to tarmac flying does it really need a Thunderbird 2 capability? Of course SF must make use of this capability but that is an entirely different scenario; does A400m have smaller RCS than C130?

    Odd if it is a high end often unused RN capability being discussed here it is always fair game for the chop. But suggesting we don’t need an often unused RAF capability and it is seen as madness. How many austere field landings do our C130s actually do? And how long in maintenance afterwards? How often have they landed under fire on a dirt airfield being shelled? I bet A400m after an austere landing, however much improved its maintenance regime is supposedly, it will spend a good few days being fettled. I worked in IT long enough to know that the new super machine always has many quirks as the old machine it replaces. There is a beautiful simplicity to the redundancy of large numbers of simple devices.

  114. paul g

    seeing the comments about the size of the US aircraft inventory and the debate about ch-47 in the sandpit reminded me of an article i read about the US ordering the mega cheap new air drop parachutes.

    Now i mention this only because it seems that massive force of CH-47′s and C-130′s isn’t needed because they use the smallest aircraft in the airbus catalouge the C-212!! plenty of photos on t’interweb using the old and the new chutes, basically it costs a lot less to bang out the patrol resupply in one of these instead of the maintainence heavy chinook, and obviously makes sense to carry small loads into a small aircraft! lands on a sixpence so can utilise smaller areas opening up options on drop or not.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e6/AWS_Casa-212_in_afghanistan.jpg

  115. x

    @ Paul G

    I think the RAF is doing what British forces have done for a long time; got on with the job with what they have got. Same as the MoD sending an RFA to do an RN patrol task.

    Not saying we don’t need an A400m or C130 type aircraft. All I am asking is what is the problem we are trying to solve? What is the big issue? I think the need for A400m/C130 has its roots back in WW2, we keep because we do it, and not because we need it (in big numbers.) Maybe I interpret the lessons wrongly but what makes the large multi engine transport work isn’t it austere landing capability but your side owning secure landing sites close to the action. (And having them in large, large numbers.) That is what we had in NW Europe post D Day and during the Berlin Airlift; secure airfields and lots of airframes.

  116. Swimming Trunks

    Theres an interesting section in the Future airborne armies report I linked to (1st part thread?) which discusses the “new” concept of the assualt transport – it praises the German AR 232 (?) for its capabilities but it wonders if future designs would be too costly for the dangers of the air head and for the regular airfield to airfield runs which civillian designs could do better.

  117. x

    @ Swimming Trunks

    It isn’t about using civilian equipment per se. More about how this idea that these aircraft are landing at the forward edge of battle here, there, and everywhere disgorging vehicles is sold.

  118. Brian Black

    The Atlas will shift nine military pallets; the A330 with cargo door, just one less – but further, faster and more efficiently.
    Picking up C-17 was essential to fill the gaps before A400 came on the scene (and it is an undoubtedly sensible idea to have just one aircraft type fill both the tactical and strategic roles), but once we had our hands on it, the C-17 allowed us to effectively hedge our bets against any programme delays, cost increases, capability shrinkage, or other risks – allowing us to plump for the known qualities of the American pair. We stuck with the A400 for political and industrial reasons, not military ones. Though while we maybe should have pulled the plug on A400 a few years ago, with the C-17 line set to close in 2014, Atlas would appear to be our longer-term future anyway.

  119. paul g

    @x, don’t think my point came across well there, it wasn’t about who who or what, just that although we are going bigger keep an open mind. as pointed out the US have this large fleet of hoofing great aircraft, yet have had the common sense to employ a small cheap to run aircraft for small taskings. I wonder how much money could’ve been saved if we had done a deal with airbus for the leasing of some C-235s obviously using the “hey it’s your fault it’s late so we’ll have a discount” line and had used that for the ferrying of troops/stores between kandahar and bastion. We Could’ve had a buy at the end of the lease option.using the Money saved from using the cheaper aircraft

    Point 2 come the drawdown as stated by someone earlier these aircraft are going to be expensive to run, do we need a huge 4 prop aircraft for things such as air dispatch training, refresher jumps (in my time at parachute brigades people would either struggle to get refresher jumps in due to getting enough people to justify the aircraft or the polar opposite there would be a handful on the herc!) So as proved by the US no need to ignore the “little guys” in your plans.

    clear as mud!
    BTW i would like to see a K-MAX and a small fixed wing be it any from the c-27/c-212,235,295 family as the future forwarding resupply assets I’ve given my reasons for the k-max before, if you use a ch-47 for supply runs you’re losing a valuable troop carrying asset.

    can’t find a unit price for k-max (line was shut in 2003) however did find these stats for the k-max in afghanistan,

    Lockheed Martin claimed in January 2012 that K-MAX has delivered 100,000 pounds of cargo in 50 unmanned missions.

    Kaman reported on May 9, 2012 that K-Max has delivered over 1,000,000 pounds of cargo in less than four months and would continue to be deployed until September 2012.

    K-Max delivered more than 500,000 pounds of cargo just in March 2012.

  120. x

    @ paulg

    You were quite clear. I was just chuntering on agreeing with you.

    I can’t believe the UK can’t afford a dedicated parachute training aeroplane. A pair of ‘planes. A Skyvan. Or a civilian C130 (or two). Pair or four of C27.

    As for small taskings, well that is my point. How often does a C130 carry 20t? Forgetting distractions like heat and altitude just in case the next war is fought at sea level in less hostile climes Then again how often has heat and altitude stopped or hampered something being done by C130 in Afghanistan? Not near as often I should bet as C130 taking off with 3 tons because there isn’t a helicopter available. These austere landing aeroplanes were conceived when there were no helicopters. Simple under carriages and light loads. By its very design the modern helicopter gets around all of those problems and can carry greater weight than a DC3. All the clever off piste tricks that the modern tactical transport can perform that add complexity and weight and therefore cost (therefore reduce cargo weights and range) are answering questions the helicopter already answers. Even WW2 they knew when not to risk a plane off a prepared field. The more I think of it the more we seem to be buying something because it is being sold, because it has always been done (even though always appears to be less than 80 years), and dare I say because of a fixed wing bias.

  121. Think Defence Post author

    In Part 5 (Say Hello to My Little Brother) I am going to look at mini tactical transport aircraft. I have read various reports that say even the C130J when used in the intra theatre ‘timely logistics’ role is often extremely underutilised

  122. x

    @ TD

    Not saying we shouldn’t buy A400m or more C130x. Or that either are bad aeroplanes. More the technology has gone beyond what is needed. And that the helicopter coming from the other direction (small lifts) now meets or answers the problem the original tactical lifters (like the DC3) were built to answer. I am not going to apologise for thinking the speedy dispatch of pallets of potatoes, medical supplies, uniforms, and other stuff outweighs the occasional need to move a truck to somewhere without tarmac.

    EDIT: Not that I think anybody wants me to apologise. :)

    EDIT 2: Well apologise more than I normally have to…

  123. Challenger

    @Mark

    I agree that a 50 Hercules fleet was fairly notional, perhaps it includes some overlap between older variants being replaced by the J in the late 90s.

    So the figure probably was closer to the 35-40 mark at it’s peak and I have no doubt that 30 C17 and A400 are going to be more capable on a 1 for 1 volume/capacity basis.

    I’m still concerned about service hours and maintenance though. It doesn’t matter how capable an individual airframe is, if they are fewer in number they are going to be worked harder.

  124. Challenger

    P.S

    Am I imagining this or was their a rumour that Boeing had reserved another 2-4 C17 slots for the RAF in the expectation that delays with the A400 and Herrick strain would lead to more orders?

  125. Chris.B.

    @ Mark,
    “But if my 18 [Atlas] carries more, flys faster and doesn’t need to stop as much on longer flights do I have possibly more capability to meet post sdsr requirements?”
    – You could design and build a cargo plane that can fly non stop, non refuelled around the globe carrying 200 tons of cargo if you like. That’s not going to change the fact that the bulk of the work Hercules is doing in theatre involves flights of less than two hours, and cargo loads that wouldn’t strain a Chinook.

    @ Topman,
    “Although from what I’ve heard Air Tanker consortium have a few problems at their end”
    – It’s a testament to the state of defence procurement that that statement seems fairly normal these days.

    @ x,
    “And I said above I wonder how many C130 drops are made because there aren’t Chinook available.”
    – According the NAO, the answer to that question is; ‘a lot’.

    “It seems most British bases have trouble securing out to less than the effective range of the 5.56 beyond their walls; never mind securing a landing strip for C130 to touch down and be off loaded”
    – I think the main base south of Al-Amarah (Iraq) had a rough strip next to it for C-130 landings.

    “How many austere field landings do our C130s actually do?”
    – 400-450 per quarter (3 months) it would seem. Obviously paving certain regularly used strips changes that.

    “I bet A400m after an austere landing, however much improved its maintenance regime is supposedly, it will spend a good few days being fettled”
    – Interesting that the only report about the A400M doing rough field testing has it being described by Airbus as “excellent”… despite the fact that – according to Flight Global – what was supposed to be a week of testing was cut short on day two during braking tests when the aircraft damaged the surface. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

    @ Paul G,
    “Now i mention this only because it seems that massive force of CH-47′s and C-130′s isn’t needed because they use the smallest aircraft in the airbus catalouge the C-212!!”
    – Was it Blackwater, or some other PMC, that rented out their 212 for supply drops?

    @ X,
    “All I am asking is what is the problem we are trying to solve? What is the big issue?”
    – Back when the RAF were looking at A400, Hercules was doing mostly airport to airport flights, so a larger aircraft with more range and better payload carrying made sense. Then along came C-17 to fill the role that A400 was going to. So now A400 looks a little pointless.

    @ Brian Black,
    “Though while we maybe should have pulled the plug on A400 a few years ago, with the C-17 line set to close in 2014, Atlas would appear to be our longer-term future anyway”
    – There’s been some recent order of C-17 to keep that line busy for a while. If we canned A400 and ordered a few more C-17 we could have ours put on the end of the line after the Indian lot.

    @ Paul G,
    “… do we need a huge 4 prop aircraft for things such as air dispatch training, refresher jumps?”
    – If you could convince the RAF to give up some of the mountain of light aircraft it has for training air cadets you could probably buy something small, but enough to do static lines and air dispatch. Or, we could shut down the bloody RAF Falcons parachute display team, who it would seem have a dedicated Herc at their disposal.

    @ Challenger,
    “Am I imagining this or was their a rumour that Boeing had reserved another 2-4 C17 slots for the RAF in the expectation that delays with the A400 and Herrick strain would lead to more orders?”
    – I remember reading something similar, to the extent that they had informed long lead suppliers to be ready if the call came. Time to pick up the phone me thinks.

  126. Phil

    Where are the C130s still doing rough landings?

    BSN has a proper runway now as does KAF and Mirmandab or whatever that weird little holding pen of an airbase is in the Middle East.

    The HERRICK airbridge is maintained by surprisingly few airframes in my view, I saw a presentation on it – two airbridges and some resilience airframes – less than 10 RAF birds (C130, C17, VC10/Tristar). Especially since chartered flights can take up a lot of work and the main work comes in 3 month waves from Mar-May and Sep-Oct for the RiPs.

  127. Mark

    On the tornado refuel troubles. It is interesting to note that said drogues work fine when testing other jets in Spain including I believe Spanish typhoons and seem to be working fine in aus. They do however appear to misplace a boom from time to time.

    Rumours abound the reason for the uk issues was that a range of contact speeds were specified in the contract whoever in the uk who did that appeared to not contact front line operators who in certain flight profiles uses much slower contact speeds and the drogue software was requiring upgrade to correct issue not sure if true but there you go. Air tanker also appear to be having issues certifing the a330 as its the first aircraft to do so with maa in place. Not close to this program so additional problems may also exist.

  128. Phil

    “A Skyvan. Or a civilian C130 (or two). Pair or four of C27.”

    Skyvans were being used last I was told which was not long ago at all. Also a lot of the refresher stuff can be made to tie in with exercises, especially multi national exercises so one can gather as many different wings as possible.

  129. Phil

    “and cargo loads that wouldn’t strain a Chinook.”

    Sorry but this is rubbish. C130s can fit loads of personnel and palletised kit in the back on the ramp and just before it. There’s no way at all you’d fit the same kit on probably three or four or five Chinooks. The baggage maxes out volume very quickly. On a Chinook you’d have to simply throw it all in bit by bit but on a Herc its palletised, strapped down and loaded on in a minute or two and off again just as quick.

    Inside a Chinook is just too small. When we RiP’d out of the FOB there were about 10 of us and our tour kit (bergan, day sack, grip) and the damn thing was rammed because the baggage was bulky.

  130. x

    @ Chris B re C130 subbing for CH47

    Not surprised then.

    re Austere landings now

    Wow that is a lot. 400 per quarter is 3 a day give or take. As Phil asks below or above, where I wonder? And again how many because CH47 isn’t available.

    re Austere landings by A400m

    No surprise really. It is a big piece of equipment. Big engines. C17 off piste isn’t something that the USAF enjoy doing.

    re Why A400?

    Yes. I was more driving at that there is a certain logical progression from the transports of WW2 to C130. And as said above it was conceived before Chinook, which was a decade and more away. But you could also say as well Chinook was logical follow on from those WW2 transports. Perhaps without the range yes. But look how they were operated in Vietnam. Look at how the US has given them AAR capability even though they are the one nation that get landing rights nearly anywhere and have plenty of airframes so don’t have to make as much use as possible out their helicopters. CH47 is as good as plane from the 1950s, in some ways better.

    And finally there may not be 747 capable airports everywhere. But there are certainly A300 capable airports everywhere; that is 70tons into theatre over 37t. All of those airfields could be hubs for Chinook (and other airframes) in war time if needed. As I jokingly said above when carriers are mentioned there are airfields everywhere. Suggest the same when questioning A400m, whether a different combination of platforms would be better, and all those airfields disappear. :)

    @ Phil

    So all new Parachute Regiment soldiers are getting jump qualified now? Super stuff.

  131. Phil

    The Skyvans can do a lob, land and have the next blokes up in far less time than a Hurc – doing a lob from a Hurc is a bit of a mission in planning and execution but the Skyvan is more like a fair ride: you line up for your go.

    I don’t know about how many Reg blokes are getting their wings as operational requirements can dictate that. But put it this way, there’s no drama’s in the airborne TA with staying in date unless you’re a jump dodger.

  132. Chris.B.

    @ Phil,
    “Sorry but this is rubbish”.
    – If that’s the case then its rubbish being fed back by the end users e.g. the Hercules pilots and their loadmasters. They didn’t say EVERY flight was a replacement for Chinooks or that Chinooks could do every role that the Hercules does, just that a reasonable number of the flights – likely airdrops – were to ease the pressure off the Chinook fleet. Don’t forget Chinook can undersling loads as well as carrying them internally.

    @ x,
    “Wow that is a lot. 400 per quarter is 3 a day give or take. As Phil asks below or above, where I wonder?”
    – I think this was before Bastion got a proper surface, and Iraq was still ongoing. The number likely would have dropped once better surfaces were prepared and Iraq was wound up. But it’s indicative of the conditions faced in earlier stages of such campaigns.

  133. Phil

    “They didn’t say EVERY flight was a replacement for Chinooks or that Chinooks could do every role that the Hercules does, just that a reasonable number of the flights – likely airdrops – were to ease the pressure off the Chinook fleet.”

    That’s different from what you said. Yes a Chinook can underslung a load but it can’t go from Kandahar to Bastion and then onto Kabul and back to KAF which is what nearly all the C130 flight routes I saw in Afghan were doing. They were called Thumper flights in 2008 and something else in 2010, Stampede flights or something. You can’t keep an airbridge open with choppers, not even the US bothers to try. There’s also the fact that in that environment even lightly laden Chinooks (ie the MERT) couldn’t get to all of TFHs 2008 AO from BSN. As for air drops I am sure there are a variety of reasons they are done beyond just a resource one.

  134. Mark

    Threat would be another issue with helicopters. There is next to no surface to air threat in afghan insurgents getting hold of some shoulder launched sam increases significantly the threat to helicopters and would push more movements to fixed wing a/c that can fly higher and or faster on routes around afghan and this may have been the case in iraq. Its also worth noting flying direct to bastion from day 1 would have eased the burden on ferry flights from kabul/bagram ect.

  135. x

    @ Chris B re early phase

    Yes. But I still wonder whether 20 A400m would be more useful than additional 40 CH47, or a combination of platforms (say CH47, Merlin sized, Spartan.) £2billion (20 x A400m at £100m) could not only buy different airframes but additional engineering kit to build runways quickly if needed. Also I suppose “we” might not be “there” long enough to build proper runways. Um. Perhaps there may even be runways we can use; if they haven’t been bombed. There may be nowhere for a big plane to land, but there will probably be space for a helicopter even a big one like CH47. Like I say just not convinced the Army is gaining much from A400m, yet I am convinced it needs more helicopters.

    @ Phil

    We need somebody in the know then to find out what is happening about regular Parachute Reg training.

  136. Phil

    “We need somebody in the know then to find out what is happening about regular Parachute Reg training.”

    I am sure they are getting on just fine. Things were bad for a while as there was no Skyvan and HERRICK was main effort so if a jumps course was called off or the weather stopped you doing your 8 then that was tough shit until after the tour. And then another tour came along.

  137. x

    @ Mark re SAM MANPADS in the hands of non-state actors.

    If you ever write a thesis on SALW proliferation you can fill pages talking about SAMs in terrorist hands. Better than talking about nuclear terrorism. Even with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and all manner of ordnance going missing how many instances of SAM attacks by terrorists have there been? One or two. Attacks by HMG on helicopters are far more common, but helicopters aren’t raining from the sky in Afghanistan. Where are all the SAMs? Wouldn’t they be using them if they had them? And a C130 making a tactical landing is surely just a good a target? Is that what these things are designed for after all? Used line of sight most MANPADs have ranges measure in kilometres. The only way MANPADs will happen for terrorists is if they have a nation state sponsor. And even when that happens as with the US Stingers in Afghanistan the pilots adapted.

    I will say I am sceptical about helicopter use in high end war between 1 tier peers. Resupply and casualty evacuation yes. Moving battalions straight across an enemy’s front line, no.

  138. Chris.B.

    @ Phil,
    “That’s different from what you said”
    – Where? All I said was that a lot of airdrops were being made to take pressure off Chinooks. That’s only ‘airdrops’, not every other task that the Hercules does in theatre. And “a lot” doesn’t mean every drop. It just means they were making a lot of airdrops to ease pressure on the Chinook. To quote the document;

    ‘The Hercules has also been undertaking more airdrop tasks to relieve the demands on Chinook helicopters; the Hercules fleet has dropped an average of 123 tonnes of stores per month since July 2007, whereas in the same period from July 2006 it had dropped just 21 tonnes per month.’

    This is what the people operating the equipment were telling investigators.

  139. Think Defence Post author

    Isnt it horses for courses, time sensitive loads into locations without a runway = Merlin and Chinook, routine mixed loads where you might want a larger capacity for multiple drop offs etc = Hercules.

    Air despatch has had a resurgence in Afghanistan for a number of reasons; the desire to keep traffic off the roads in response to the IED threat, the astronomical cost of operating helicopters for anything unless you positively absolutely have to and the risk of using strategically precious heavy lift helicopters on regular supply runs. It is not the answer to everything but low cost and precision airdrop systems have enabled a greater use.

    Should we not be looking at a range of equipment with different capabilities and operating costs that allows us to deliver a flexible and cost effective transport service?

  140. Phil

    “Where?”

    I’m going from the post where you said Hurc were carrying cargo loads that a Chinook could.

    It’s well known there was a SH shortage in Helmand in 2006-9 but that was due to the usual culprit in that time period – two medium enduring operations. There’s lots of RAF SHs in Helmand since 2009 at least.

    It does make more sense now I’ve seen the older dates. When I was there in 2010 it was just not ringing true that they had the SH hours to drop a Ground Holding Company fresh food and Mug Shots via SH and not re-supply one of the most important units in TFH with basic, warfighting supplies of bullets, food and water. But I believe that there was indeed only about 4-6 Chinooks in TFH around the time of that article.

  141. topman

    @mark the tornado refuels off just about every tanker without such problems for many a year. The aussie used a different boom as did the earlier trials in spain. Closing speeds are used to get a better a contact although a few were on the high side. It’s interesting to note there’s no mods to the gr4 fleet nor any planned. Air tanker meanwhile have done several at their end although i understand some of the problems aren’t their fault but sub contractors.

  142. Mark

    Topman

    The booms keep falling off but the uk didn’t order them, the hose and droge units are the same on every a330 airbus tanker, pods supplied by cobham they need to update software in the pods for speed changes. The current uk issues with the pods have not been reported other than with uk jets was my understanding but as I say ive no involvement so it’s 2nd hand info which maybe not correct.

  143. topman

    @ mark the aussie were very similar but not quite the same. The mods that have been done are on the hose and droge unit and they aren’t all software changes either.

  144. Chris.B.

    @ Phil,

    “I’m going from the post where you said Hurc were carrying cargo loads that a Chinook could”
    – In some cases they were. I should point out I’m not advocating a switch to an all Chinook fleet for in theatre work. Just that it seems that the bulk of the transport work being done by Hercules is short haul and for the most part seems to be under its capacity, in terms of weight and space, with a pressure on airframes numbers.

    That suggests to me the need for more equal or smaller aircraft to a Hercules for those in theatre jobs, while leaving the initial strategic lift of men and goods to the C-17 and A330 (in the future obviously).

    That might mean turning to something like the C-27 Spartan. Which reminds me,

    @ APATS,
    You mentioned the C-27 earlier and the cost. One advantage we have over some other users is that we already have the C-130J in service and the two aircraft use the same engines. That could probably reduce our costs bringing that new type into service if we chose to.

  145. wf

    @Chris.B: there’s always all those C27′s the USAF is foolishly getting rid of, hopefully for a decent price :-)

  146. Topman

    @ Mark

    I think that article is a little out of date, the passenger version I know has flown a few sorties, I was on one of the first few flights. I don’t think it will be long before Air Tanker sort out there problems, like I said earlier I don’t think it is a show stopper. Now some of the mods on the basket have been done I’m sure they’ll get it to work.

  147. Mark

    Topman

    I would agree the point I was more trying to understand was why was there a request to certify the system for higher contact speeds than what the raf uses.

  148. x

    @ Phil

    I posted that BFBS video about C130 in Afghanistan. Clearly said in one sequence that for that evening their mission was to move 2.5t load. Might be a one off. But I get the distinct feeling that they hardly ever move gross palleted loads at full capacity. Cut out the patrol bases I should imagine drops are only made to major bases because of the need to secure the drop zone. As I said above patrol bases have enough problems keeping the Taliban from the door without running around the Afghan countryside chasing pallets.

    TD might be right about multiple drops, but I go back to my assertion about C130 not being loaded to capacity. He also speaks about the cost of helicopter operation. There would be less wear and tear with more airframes available, less stress on the maintenance and supplies system as a whole. The other advantage of helicopter is that it doesn’t have to go back light which is a sin in the world of logistics. Even if just one passenger and a sack of post is collected it is doing something useful and is probably saving hours on another airframe.

    I know Helmand is a very big place. But are British forces operating outside CH47 range from Bastion? That is 200nm combat range, 400nm non-combat range. Split the difference say 300nm? SF aside I don’t think they are especially as it seems PB can call on certain airframes to fit their needs be it CH47 or Blackhawk. If the UK 100,000 army has struggled with Afghanistan with understrength units and tried to cover too much ground how much of an area will an 80,000 army cover? Even if you judge Afghanistan as a success you would have to admit it is close run. The Army has been lucky that a PB hasn’t been over run and that there hasn’t been (thank God) a massacre. Even a smaller army with more helicopters might be able to establish a flying reserve company (Might give the 2800 RAF Reg something to do….) The A400m money could be used to buy those extra helicopters.

    @ Chris B

    I have been looking at Bristol Britannia; seems to be ideal for dropping pallets. They have a similar cargo weight and flight profile to C130. But they don’t come with a huge vehicle ramp or the off tarmac landing gear which is where the expense is to be found. I wonder what a modern version would cost, perform, and look like. Dare say a lot less than A400m.

  149. topman

    @mark i’m not quite sure that was the case. I know it says that in the article, i’ll be honest the design specs and what was specified in the contract wasn’t really my area. I was involved in the trials but it wasn’t the impression i got when the trial was on. More the extra speed was needed to make it work rather than a design spec. But then it’s possible wouldn’t be the first time someone has cocked up a contract.

  150. Phil

    x

    No they aren’t anymore with the possible exception of the BRF and other specialist elements. But when the AO was everything from Garmisir to MSQ to Kajaki then they were in some instances operating outside the MERT bubble.

    I’m sure C130 does often move small amounts of cargo but that’s more about how the operation is organised and run than about kit capability. You have to divide the operation somewhere and during RiPs the C130s are flat out.

    There are so many perfectly sensible reasons to have C130 operating as it does. The air bridge is so established now that it works almost like an airline. Taskings change and payloads change and using C130 gives you the slack and resilience you need when you’re fighting a war.

    It’s not a business. One doesn’t want or need super efficiency. One needs resilience and capacity and to be more efficient than the enemy.

  151. Challenger

    When are the new Chinook’s being rolled out?

    Supposed to be late 2012 and early 2013 but I haven’t heard anything about it for ages. Pity they will be too late to have any significant impact on Herrick.

  152. Challenger

    @Chris.B.

    On further C17 orders…

    ‘I remember reading something similar, to the extent that they had informed long lead suppliers to be ready if the call came. Time to pick up the phone me thinks’.

    Yeah Boeing aren’t stupid, they will have undoubtedly looked at the current situation and made provisions for possible further RAF orders.

    Id be happy enough to lease another 2-4 airframes now and then purchase them outright in a few years when the money is available.

  153. x

    @ Phil

    I aren’t making myself clear; I realised a while back. I think C130 is OK doing what it is doing. I have no problem with parachuting in supplies. No problem with C130 in itself; one of my favourite aeroplanes even. (Corgi C130 in USCG colours is yummy.) As I said above the RAF runs with what it has and is fortunate to have a mix of overlapping platforms. Understand why it runs nearly empty. Why I am discussing what C130 is doing is because we will be asking an even bigger plane with fewer available to fulfil the same duties for an army whose foot print in your favoured sustained operations scenario will be even smaller post 2015. A footprint that will be more helicopter friendly. As a soldier on the ground in Afghanistan would you have like to seen more helicopters? As a medic waiting for the casevac would you have liked to have had more helicopters?

    I am going to respect your experience and knowledge in the sphere and not go off on flight of fancy about Chinook (or other helicopters) on ships, but it is a consideration for me too. And I am just playing fantasy aeroplane talking about a modern Britannia; I am just wondering how much we are paying for fat tyres and low suspension when the world is covered in concrete and tarmac runways. And I am just playing fantasy logistics wondering if we need more A300 freighters to shove stuff down the pipe quicker.

    Lastly I am not even saying A400m is a bad aeroplane. It is a rather good aeroplane; MPA, tanker, and even C17 substitute if we didn’t already have the latter. My only reservation is we don’t tend to go to war with Germans and the French we go to war because Uncle Sam asks. The USAF won’t be flying the A400m. That A400m could be spent so manys perhaps 20 mini-C17-likes isn’t the way to go.

  154. Brian Black

    Hi, Chris.B. “If we canned A400 and ordered a few more C-17…”

    That ship has already sailed without us. The Airbus contract is signed, we’ve even spent 50 million on an Atlas simulator.
    We could still order more C-17, if we had some money. Boeing will certainly be squeezing every bit of life out of that production line, and they’ve still got time to find orders for a handful more aircraft.
    Both A400 alone, and the hi-lo mix of the US pair have their advantages. It’s just typical that the MoD has ended up with a hodge-podge of both concepts. If there is more cash for cargo, it’ll get spent on Atlas.

  155. Chris.B.

    Depends on the contract details. And £50 million? I’m sure we could flog it to someone else and move in a different direction. Sunk costs and all that.

  156. Opinion3

    The C17 brings capabilities to our forces that are not only useful but needed. A further order before the line shuts would probably be sensible. The A400M is surely an evolution of the C-130 for the modern age. As TD eloquently writes much of our kit is no longer ‘over sized’ it is more a case of the C-130 being under sized. The A400M being European, and partially British brings industrial benefits too. Spending our hard earned dollars on American planes when we can and do make a plane which is an advance on the Hercules needs to be questioned. There are costs and benefits to be weighed up and Pounds keeping our industry going generates tax which generates more money for public spending on hospitals and the Armed Forces.

    The mix is good, the C17, A400M cover bulk large items. Although I remain angry about the A330; it should have been a cargo door and boom equiped variant and the PFI contract is just robbery. The lack of aerial refueling for the C17, Airseeker etc is just riddiculous. The ability to carry freight easily in the A330 would surely reduce some of the needs to charter aircraft.

    This leaves the C-130 and smaller aircraft. I’d get Marshall to keep the C-130s in service. Their utility value might be compared to a Land Rover; people know how to repair them and spare parts are readily available and this is likely to continue to some time yet. I do wonder why we don’t have something like the C-295. It looks great but we have plunged for the 146, I hope when the UOR need has finished a proper consideration will be given to whether these should be kept, replaced with C-295 or the likes or not at all.

    Do we have enough though? fifty/sixty C130s are reducing to 25 A400Ms. There are not like boats which need to be in many places at the same time so it is possible, especially if the cheque book comes out for the Hercs and C17s and 146s.

  157. x

    @ Opinion 3

    Military logistics is about moving pallets and self-loading cargo not vehicles.

    If you want to move vehicles they move under their own power (rare), by rail, and by ship.

    For the cost of A400m you could buy 3 ships, fill them with a battalion’s worth of vehicles, and still buy 12 more Chinooks.

    Don’t drink the pro-EU Arnham-esque view kool aid.

  158. Mark

    x

    Your ships deliver them to central Africa or afghan?

    This 50-60 hercs is really what was the case 20 years ago. Today 2012 or with 6-8 months we will have 8 c-17 and 24 hercs not 50 or what ever. Weve decided to replace 24 hercs with 22 a400m the price of a smaller armed forces.

  159. Think Defence Post author

    X, or see it another way

    For the cost of project CVF we could have enough Air Transport to lift an entire armoured brigade at the drop of a hat to anywhere in the world at a speed just oh so slightly north of 25 knots

    Nonsense, yes but am sure even you can see the point

    Military logistics is about moving and supporting people and pallets but it is ALSO about moving plant and vehicles

  160. Opinion3

    X,

    There is plenty of evidence that the C17 and C5′s capabilities have been utilised by Forces other than the US for decades. As the NAO report details on TD’s link a Nato hour in a C17 was worth eight C-130 hours (if I remember correctly). I am not a logistics expert but a helicopter either fits or it doesn’t.

    Whilst I agree with your sentiment of the best route approach to logistics I think the Military bit is the trump card.

    It is the job of Military planners to plan and resource for ALL reasonable eventualities; this includes being able to rapidly deploy, deploy to land locked Nations, etc. This concept of rationalising everything to a few models in the name of commonality I think goes too far. Someone somewhere has hijacked this word and is edit replacing ‘flexibility’ with ‘commonality’ willy-nilly.

  161. x

    @ TD

    I am now busy costing how much air lift Typhoon would have bought us…..

    Wow! We could have bought the infantry an autogyro each. And still had enough left over for Royal and RAF Reg to have one. Wow……..

    I know plant has to be moved. And even the occasional armoured vehicle. But between chartering and C17 don’t you think that occasional need is meet?

  162. x

    Opinion3 said “flexibility,commonality, willy-nilly.”

    :)

    Has been said here C130 often moves about under loaded. We have C17 and charter to move to big stuff occasionally. Doesn’t point to me to a need for platform sized between C130 and C17.

  163. Laurent Simon

    Excellent posts ! Which I just mentionned in “Vers un A400M NEO ? Ou plutôt vers un A410 M ?” :
    http://europeagenda2010.free.fr/article.php3?id_article=215

    About the A400M price : The “total cost of ownership” must be known to compare with C-130 and C-17.
    => Who knows if the Wikipedia figures, for 20 – 30 years (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/A400M#Retards_et_surco.C3.BBts , in the table) are good estimates ?

    If yes, the A400M cost would be half the C17 cost, even if is not the case with the purchase cost.

    In anycase, you can read the 7 articles on A400M costs, in 21 questions: “Les surcoûts de l’A400M en 21 questions”
    - (1) Les délais et retards.
    http://europeagenda2010.free.fr/article.php3?id_article=195
    - (2) Les surcoûts id_article=200
    - (3) A-t-on mis la barre trop haut ? id_article=204
    - (4) L’A400M coûte-t-il trop cher ? id_article=203
    - (5) L’A400M est-il bien positionné ? id_article=206
    - (6) L’A400M pourra-t-il s’exporter ? id_article=205
    - (7) Tous les problèmes enfin réglés ? id_article=201

  164. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Mark & APATS,

    This might be covered later in the thread (catching up, only @ Sept 10 now), but RE:
    “Mark, That is what I was getting at. Any future sales will see a percentage paid back to the partner nations up to a limit that would see them having spent 110 million euros per airframe.”
    - I am not sure the rescue deal by launch nations has anything to do with the unit cost (it might), but it was cleverly disguised as equity (when in fact a loan)
    - becomes repayable only from proceeds of further export sales; otherwise stays in as equity (i.e. bumps up the programme cost that the launch nations will have to eat up)

  165. Tom Stagliano

    How will the A400M be able to perform this baseline mission as required by the US Army with support from the USAF
    This is the standard deployment of troops and equipment that must be done within 24 hours over a distance of 2,000 nautical miles
    Please note the 4 M1A1 tanks and the 4 M2 Bradleys

    I am not certain that the A400m (you get to specify how many you need) will ever be able to do this basic military mission. A mission that has been repeated by the USA over and over again.

    So, take all the expected A400Ms that France, Germany and Spain are expected to buy and tell me how they (working together) could support this mission? Let’s say Southern Chad or central Afghanistan….

    …….A………………………….B
    .. 2448 Troops ………………843 Troops

    .. 108 Wheeled Vehicles… 179 Wheeled Vehicles

    .. 26 CDS Bundles………… 23 Pallets

    .. 28 Howitzers…………….. 16 OH5D Scout Helos

    .. 12 Engineer Repair Packages.. 12 UH60L Blackhawks Helos

    .. 6 Supply Platforms………… 4 M1A1 Abrams Tanks

    …………………………..4 M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles
    …………………………..2 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers

    all into one unimproved landing strip……

  166. arkhangelsk

    If I am to take Tom’s post seriously, he’s saying the A400 is useless because it can’t carry tanks. And the C-17 can.

    My question is, can the C-17 meet the mission to deliver tanks to an UNIMPROVED (not just unpaved) landing strip? IIRC, The US played some games with putting C-17 on unpaved strips, but they were MOST IMPROVED by the engineers before landing there.

  167. Opinion3

    @Tom

    The C17 might be fab, but the Atlas is fab too, so is a Chinook and for that matter so is the Afghan mule…..

    Horses for Courses something to Mule over

  168. John Hartley

    Surely the moral is that you need a few expensive C-17s for the big stuff, plus a reasonable number of cheaper A400Ms for sending everything else. This is the happy position the RAF will be in with its 8 C-17 + 22 A400M. They did once say they needed a minimum of 34 transport planes to meet global tasks, so my fantasy RAF fleet would be 9 C-17 + 25 A400M.
    Perhaps in time, the C-17 will be re engined with more economical engines.

  169. John

    Nice article, but I think you are missing one piece of the equation – overflight rights and the affect this routes and distances between points. If you don’t get overflight rights, then aircraft will need to use international air space and fly further, stop more often, or carry less. And there recent examples of countries restricting their air space including the last Gulf War, El Derado Canyon, etc.

    Let’s take the route – Brize Norton to Ascension. Tinkering around in Google Earth, Brize Norton to Ascension direct is around 4200NM, but threading through international air space the distance increases to around 4800NM.

    At 4200NM the A400 carries around 12 ton, and at 4800NM – nothing.
    by contrast, at 4200NM the C17 carries around 54 ton, and at 4800NM around 46 ton. Not to say that this one example rights off the A400 which will be a valuable aircraft, but it illustrates two points. 1) overflight rights are not a given and if not granted present problems, and 2) the C17 has some advantages over the A400 at longer ranges.

    And yes, the A400 could stage out of Gibraltar, get some tanker support on the way to Ascension, or the Voyager could lend a cargo hand. Gibraltar would increase response time, tankers are not always around when needed, and using limited tankers in a cargo role would place more strain on tankers and limit the transport of larger equipment.

    The RAF is fortunate they have the C17, and when the A400 comes into service a mix of 8 C17 ideally 10, and 20something A400 seems like a good combination.

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