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