The Airbus A400M Atlas – Part 4 (Export Potential)

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

Lockheed Martin understand full well the that many operators of the C130H model will be looking at replacement options soon and so do Embraer, who are currently working on concepts for a larger  Hercules and C390 respectively. Embraer are banking on those nations seeking a like for like replacement.

The C390 is pitched squarely at the C130J and Boeing have signed a collaboration agreement with Embraer to support the programme, with the end of the C17 programme in sight (again) their interest is obvious. A number of nations have lined up with orders or ‘talks about orders’ so the threat to the C130 is very real.

Despite India buying C17’s and developing their own 15-20 tonne payload air lifter called the UAC/HAL IL214 to replace their aging Antonov AN-32’s I do wonder if there is a possibility for an Indian A400 at some point in the future.

With the AN70 being the perennial ‘nearly there’ aircraft there is a vibrant C130H/J replacement market but given the positioning of the A400 at a space in between the C130/C390/IL214 and C17 space it doesn’t have a direct competitor unless the An70 ever gets into production. There is the Japanese C2 which also sits slightly above the C130J but whilst the stated performance figures look good, uncertainty over export viability, a lack of experience in the tactical aircraft market, small production run limiting availability and the absence of a number of systems in comparison means that it will face a tough challenge if it is to compete with the A400. I also think the Wiki performance and cost figures of the C2 seem a bit suspect, especially the cost.

For those countries facing similar issues to the A400 launch customers, an increasing in size and volume equipment baseline, need for longer range semi strategic outsize transport without having to resort to the C17 and an ageing C160/C130/IL76 fleet the A400 represents an option worthy of serious consideration.

Airbus have been showcasing the A400 as part of its development process but until it comes into service and starts maturing, export potential would seem small. However, once its capabilities become known and developed post initial in service dates then that well change dramatically.

India has also recently published a request for proposals for a replacement for their Hawker Siddeley HS748’s for which the Airbus Military C295 is a strong contender. Partnering with Indian aeronautics manufacturers might establish a strong relationship with India and potentially create a regional assembly hub for the A400, who knows.

Australia is another possibility, despite their recent buy of C17’s and C27J’s their twelve C130J’s will be over twenty years old by the time the first production slots for an A400 become available and the remaining C130H’s will likely be long out of service. A C17, A400, C27 mix looks pretty good to me, especially given the semi strategic range of the A400.

I even think South Africa may decide the best replacement for their cancelled A400’s is in fact the A400 and Turkey might end up with more than their initial allocation of ten.

Any export success would be hugely welcome even though EADS have to sell about 25 aircraft before their loan repayment arrangements kick in. Export success beyond the launch customers is not certain by any stretch of the imagination but I think there is a better chance than many think.

Development continues…

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September 16, 2012 2:05 pm

Must grade this one a little slapdash compared to the earlier efforts. I know primary attention (based on comment count) is inevitably slipping away to other articles but still…

Allow me to be an optimist in the greater spirit of man. With Russia finally getting off its butt and committing to an order on August 20, I must say that the remaining chances of the An-70 getting wiped seems quite low. So, if we assume An-70 gets into production, what advantages does the A400M have that might convince a customer to pay thrice the cost (and 10-15 tons of payload, which may very well mean their tank)?
Just telling me there’s still a chance the An-70 might somehow financially stall seems a little noneducational and evasive!

As for the C-2 (no, despite the attractiveness of “K” for Ka-Go (Cargo), the Japanese are too Americanized and so it is C), you whet our appetites with “absence of a number of systems” and “cost figures seem a bit suspect”, but don’t go into any further details or analysis as to what said missing systems are worth in capability terms or what you think the price should be.

In short, a more extensive comparison would be much appreciated.

September 16, 2012 2:14 pm


As soon as function and reliability testing is complete they’re sending a a400m to india.

What advantages does an order for a400m have over an70 for someone like india? Simple the ability to get work in the airbus supply chain.

September 16, 2012 3:15 pm

From a European point of view, taking in-to account rather limited domestic markets, I would say that almost every product and system has to be pushed for export.

The larger programmes such as Typhoon, NH90 and the A400M can get by with large/collaborative home-grown orders, but it should always be seen as advantageous to actively market export potential and have foreign growth in mind.

We shall see what happens with A400M, I want to see the potential, but alas….

September 16, 2012 6:39 pm

hey gents. quick question and i’ll leave you alone. what forces does the Brits have at Camp Bastion? specifically do they have assets in theater to make up for the losses of the USMC Harriers? its a good thing we bought those that you were sellinig. it appears to be me that except for perhaps changing a few bits they might get used as is…especially in light of this loss. thanks in advance.

September 16, 2012 7:25 pm

If I remember, the low C-2 costs result from sharing a lot of components with their new MPA.

C-130J has a lot of industrial benefit to the UK too, what with the engines being 100% Rolls-Royce.

September 16, 2012 8:03 pm

There is a clear market for a C-130 replacement. Surely the A400M was the evolutionary replacement.

Unlike the commercial market which Airbus has broken into the military market relies on Governments saying yes.

I reckon it can sell very well. Its now down to continued fast and satisfactory development, proving etc and a bod in a suit. ;-)

September 17, 2012 6:55 am

“hope” is written over this article :-(

Let’s face it, the A400 is wildly over price for it’s capabilities. No one bar the Japanese or Australians is ever going to buy it, with the third world going for the Antonov/C130/Brazilian route.

They should have called it Transall II :-)

September 17, 2012 11:47 am

May I ask, why should we discuss export potential of a non-british aircraft?

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
September 17, 2012 2:37 pm

McZ As we get a rebate of on our investment when a certain amount are sold.

Wf As unconvinved as I was I see the A400 as having a unique set of capabilities. Capable of satisfying the vast majority countries requirement for a tactical/strategic lift and aar requirements with one aircraft supported by the massive air bus infrastructure world wide.

Peter Elliott
September 17, 2012 2:47 pm

Also the more get sold worldwide the stronger the support and upgrade path available to our own untits will be.

Conversely if it falls on its arse we would be sitting on an obsolete design pretty soon.

September 17, 2012 11:29 pm

@TD, thanks for replying.

The An-70 we should be happy it got “on” at all seeing that for awhile they were funding it on charter flights. I’ll like to see the A400M survive on that diet :-)

It is true that Russian commercial aviation is not doing too well at present. They were behind to start with and in the time that they are forced to stop their “enemies” have produced a new generation. But I don’t think they’ll let their military aviation die off that easily, and thanks to the utter sloth and incompetence of the West (remember back when F-22 was supposed to go in service in 1997 and we were supposed to have F-35s NOW?) they are not nearly as behind as they should be and with some chance of climbing to the lead if they can sort themselves out.

In short, let me bet on the underdog. :-)

As for the C-2, it is true that up until recently that can be a fair summary of the Japanese industry. On the other hand, at least on the problem of cost it is clear that recent Western military aviation efforts as a whole is out of control so it is possible they’ve just fallen behind the previous “weakling”.

As for the wheels, they look quite similar (not only in the wheel count) from that small photo to the A400M or for the matter the An-70. In fact, it is kind of funny how similar the undercarriage configuration of all 3 aircraft are.
The minimum takeoff distance is 500m (its on the Japanese Wiki), and while the weight is not specified that’s about what the A400M can do at the minimum weight in that chart on Part 2 (the “(ft)” is clearly a typo of “(m)”) so at least it can’t be losing in that area, granting of course the accuracy of the value.

But I’ll agree with those massive turbofans that it seems the Japanese did not place great emphasis on true “rough-field” operations. The number of wheels represent an effort to get the load per wheel down, but it is said that some Japanese airfields are paved but nevertheless not very strong (especially those under MSDF control) so it could be an effort to be gentle on the runways rather than a true rough-field ability.

December 8, 2012 6:48 am

ark, I agree (diverging a bit fro the thread topic) with
” But I don’t think they’ll let their military aviation die off that easily”
– the funny thing is that in a structure that derives from the days of central planning, there is true competition between the design bureaus (which, in the main, are divorced from production facilities)
– compare with the monopolies that have emerged in the West: one producer of stealth fighters, one producer of stealth bombers. Whether stealth will be the winning card or not is totally irrelevant – the 6th generation will be designed and produced by those who consolidated the industry with the ‘over-promising’ to get the contracts for the previous generation