A400 – Predictions

As the first flight looms ever nearer and the deadline for a governmental decision on its future comes into sharp focus over the same period, what next for the A400.

It’s fun to predict the future because one is rarely completely correct so here is our Mystic Meg…

  1. The A400 will fly by the end of the year ad the test programme will look achievable for a first production aircraft of a couple of years after that.
  2. There is no way the Governments of Europe and A400 partners will let it fail. Despite the tough negotiating position of the UK and Germany who are insisting that a fixed price contract means just that, a deal will be struck that allows EADS to avoid cancellation and huge fines.
  3. The RAF will receive between 15 and 20 airframes not the 25 on the order books
  4. The unit cost will increase by about 20%
  5. Options for future airframes and a very good deal on through life support will be struck as part of the compromise agreement, commercial loans to offset development costs might also be included and this will entail independent accountants pouring over EADS books to make sure all is above board on the costs front.

Readers of this blog will know I am hugely in favour of the capabilities that the A400 will deliver but Airbus and EADS must not be allowed to go back on fixed price contracts without something in return. Yes, the development programme was hugely ambitious but both parties signed.

Anyone else got any predictions?

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November 27, 2009 7:56 am

If signed by the current government,
It will be an order for 5 with an option for another 20, to avoid looking like a cut in capabilities.
The Government will claim to play hardball over the price, but Europeanisation will be worth any price.

The next government, who knows.

Euan Stewart
November 27, 2009 9:50 pm

I don’t think we should let Airbus screw us on the price after all the UK could happily ditch the A400M as we already operate a large fleet of C-130J which none of the other customers do in anywhere near the same number. We also are the only European nation that operates a strategic transport which is the C-17 which can carry a larger load and still do short field landings. Furthermore from a support perspective it would be wiser just to acquire more of the well proven and capable types already in service it would save money in the long run and be far easier from a crewing perspective. More C-17’s would as everyone seems to agree be a brilliant idea and their capability would be well used and they are I would argue very much needed, just look how busy the current fleet is they are burning through flying hours.

I would like to see the UK operate a fleet of C-17 and A400M both of which should complement each other and enable a better force projection capability. In regards to the C-130J fleet depending on their age and airframe life I would consider selling or retiring them or somehow getting rid of them to reduce the types in service and improve commonality. The reason is the oldest members of the fleet will be nearly 20 years old by the time the majority or all of the A400M’s have been delivered to the RAF not to mention the C-130J fleet has been working it’s socks off for years and will no doubt continue to do so in a harsh environment .

I’m predicting that the A400M will make its first flight before the end of the year but I think there could be some issues as there always are and they will need to be sorted. Meanwhile the French agree to pay more money to Airbus to help their financial situation the Germans might make a contribution as well to appease the French, us Brits might decide to ditch it and buy more C-130J and C-17 or we might stick with it and refuse to pay much more than contracted. The first production A400M’s might not to specification and will be overweight meaning they will not be able to carry the promised load over the distance nor will the short field performance be as good as mooted. I think the first aircraft will be rolling off the line around mid 2012 this allows 2 and half years for flight testing and for the problems to hopefully be solved so maybe the first aircraft might be to specification but it depends if customers can wait longer or if they need the aircraft ASAP. The UK will order an additional batch and then wait before ordering more so that they can get a feel for the aircraft although the older C-130’s will be literally falling out of the sky by then.

I would imagine the Airlift FDR post will be in the oven?

Euan Stewart
November 29, 2009 6:02 am

Hello,Sorry to double post but I’ve just been reading a thread about the A400M on the Key Publishing forum and went and done some reading when a comment was written about the current cost of the A400M. It is said to be around $190 Million dollars when the cost increases are considered and I cannot remember the UK fixed price. The C-17 is as far as I can see doing a quick Google around $200 Million dollars for the USAF for each additional aircraft and around $220 Million dollars for export customers. If the A400M costs anything more than around $140-150 Million dollars I would ditch it pretty damn fast in return for more C-17’s which would be more capable and we already have infrastructure and trained crews for the C-17 lowering comparative costs further.
If the A400M cost is above the $140-150 Million figure already and I just don’t know as I haven’t looked for accurate pricing lately then I would strongly wonder why it has not been ditched. My faith in the A400M has always been a bit shaky but if this comment on Key Publishing has any validity I would be wondering where the sanity of both industry and Government has gone. The C-17 is a known quantity with a proven record whereas the A400M still has everything to prove at great unnecessary financial cost to the extremely tight MoD budget and to the public purse as a whole.

November 30, 2009 5:03 pm

Jobs and Politics ! That is why it has not been ditched already. Various governments have hitched their wagon to the A400M train, and various (although I don’t know how many) businesses have possible 100s (or 1000s ??) of jobs based on the completion of the program. Could we pull out of buying it without loosing our work share ? I don’t know. Could we cut a deal with Boeing for cheaper C17’s if we bought more instead of A400’s – possibly, but, just like the discussion on other pages on AW101 v. Chinook v. CH53K and what they can and can not carry, the C130J is limited by its hold size, the A400 is much better, and the C17 is a bit better still. However the A400M was originally pitched as the replacement for the good old Herky bird, not as a European C17 strategic airlift competitor.

Have a strategic defence review, confirm missions and priorities and then based on that decide whether to buy more C17’s and C130J’s or stick with the A400M regardless……