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The Airbus A400M is a European four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft that can be configured for aerial refueling. It has been designed by Airbus Military corporation to replace a variety of aircraft, including the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules and the Transall C-160. The A400M was originally ordered by 9 nations, however the South African order was cancelled in November 2009.


The project began as the Future International Military Airlifter (FIMA) group, set up in 1982 by Aerospatiale, British Aerospace, Lockheed, and MBB to develop a replacement for the C-130 Hercules and Transall C-160. Varying requirements and the complications of international politics caused slow progress. In 1989 Lockheed left the grouping and went on to develop an upgraded Hercules, the C-130J Super Hercules. With the addition of Alenia and CASA the FIMA group became Euroflag.

Originally the SNECMA M138 turboprop (based on the M88 core) was selected to power the A400M. Airbus Military issued a new Request for Proposal in April 2002 which Pratt & Whitney Canada with the PW180 and Europrop International answered. Airbus Military announced, after evaluating both designs, the selection of the Europrop TP400-D6 in May 2003.

The partner nations, Francemarker, Germanymarker, Italymarker, Spainmarker, the United Kingdommarker, Turkeymarker, Belgiummarker, and Luxembourgmarker, signed an agreement in May 2003 to buy 212 aircraft. These nations decided to charge OCCAR with the management of the acquisition of the A400M.

Following the withdrawal of Italy and revision of procurement totals the revised requirement was for 180 aircraft, with first flight in 2008 and first delivery in 2009. On 28 April 2005, South Africa joined the partnership programme with the state owned Denel Aerospace Systems receiving a contract for fuselage components.

Into production

The A400M assembly at the Sevillemarker plant of EADS Spain started in Q1 2007. Airbus plans to manufacture thirty aircraft per year. The major assemblies arrive by Airbus Beluga transporters. The four EuroProp TP400-D6 flight test engines were been delivered in late February 2008 for the first A400M. Static structural testing of a A400M test airframe began on 12 March 2008 in Spain.

The first A400M, surrounded by EADS employees, during the aircraft's world presentation (roll-out), celebrated in Seville on 26 June 2008.

The first test flight, originally scheduled for Q1 2008, was postponed due to program delays, schedule adjustments and financial pressures. EADS announced in early January 2008 that continued development problems with the engines had resulted in a delay to Q2 2008 before the first engine test flights on a C-130 testbed aircraft. The first flight of the aircraft, previously scheduled for July 2008, had again been postponed. Civil certification under European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) CS-25 will be followed later by certification for military purposes. The A400M was "rolled out" in Seville on 26 June 2008 at an event presided by King Juan Carlos I of Spain, while the maiden flight is now facing on-going technical delays and is unlikely to happen earlier than late 2009.

The current focus is on obtaining the required hours of airborne test time on the C-130 testbed aircraft. The first flight of the C-130 testbed occurred on 17 December 2008.


In December 2004, South Africa announced it would purchase eight A400Ms at a total cost of approximately €800 million, with the nation joining the Airbus Military team as an industrial partner. Deliveries were expected from 2010 to 2012. But on 3 April 2009 the South African Air Forcemarker announced that it would start considering alternatives to the A400M due to postponed production and increased cost. On 5 November 2009 the government announced it was cancelling the order citing increased cost and delays in delivery.A government spokesman claimed that the cost had escalated to R 40 billion (approximately $5 billion) from R 17 billion (approximately $2 billion) if they had gone ahead with the order.

On 18 July 2005, the Chilean Air Force signed a Memorandum of understanding for three aircraft to be delivered between 2018 and 2022. But the order was cancelled after new elections.

On 8 December 2005, the Royal Malaysian Air Force ordered four A400Ms to replace its ageing fleet of C-130s.

Airbus Military made a bid in 2006 to supply Canadamarker the A400M to meet a tender request for 17 new tactical airlifters to replace their old CC-130E models. The Canadians ordered four C-17 Globemaster IIIs and 17 C-130J Super Hercules instead.

2009 technical problems

On 9 January 2009, EADS announced that the first delivery has been postponed until at least 2012. EADS also indicated that it wants to renegotiate "certain technical characteristics" of the aircraft. EADS has long maintained the first deliveries would begin three years after the A400M's first flight. The German newspaper Financial Times Deutschland has closely followed the A400M program and reported on 12 January 2009 that the aircraft is overweight by 12 tons and may not be able to achieve a critical performance requirement, the ability to airlift 32 tons. Sources told FTD that, currently, the aircraft can only lift 29 tons, which is insufficient to carry a modern armored infantry fighting vehicle. The FTD report prompted the chief of the German Air Force to say, "That is a disastrous development," and could delay deliveries to the Luftwaffe until 2014. The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the Luftwaffe is delayed at least until 2017. This leads the political planning to potential alternatives in the shape of a higher integration of European airlift capabilities. The OCCAR reminded the participating countries that they can terminate the contract before 31 March 2009. On 29 March 2009, Airbus CEO Thomas Enders told Der Spiegel magazine that the program may need to be abandoned without changes.

In June 2009, Lockheed Martin said that both United Kingdom and France had asked for technical details on the C-130J as an alternative to the A400M. On 12 June, The New York Times reported that Germany and France have delayed the decision whether or not to cancel their orders for another 6 months, while the UK still plans to decide at the end of June. The NYT also quotes a report to the French Senatemarker from February 2009, according to which "the A400M is €5 billion over budget, 3 to 4 years behind schedule, [...] aerospace experts estimate it is also costing Airbus between €1 billion and €1.5 billion a year."

The shortage of military transports caused by the A400M delay forced the U.K. to lease (and subsequently purchase) six C-17s. France and Germany have also been considering other planes, as all three countries need to support their operations in Afghanistan.

On 24 July 2009, the seven European nations announced that they would continue with the A400M program, and form a joint procurement agency to renegotiate the contract with EADS. The ministers of the seven European launch customers were supposed to meet 15 October 2009 in Germany to approve a new timetable, configuration and financial terms for the A400M airlifter. On 14 October 2009, French Ministry of Defense spokesman Laurent Teisseire, announced this meeting had been postponed.


Model of the A400M showing the turboprop engines with 8 bladed swept propellers
A400M landing gear display at Paris Air Show, 2007

The Airbus A400M will increase the airlift capacity and range compared with the aircraft it was originally set to replace, the older versions of the Hercules and Transall. Cargo capacity is expected to double over existing aircraft, both in payload and volume, and range is increased substantially as well. The cargo box dimensions are: Length, excluding ramp 17.71 m; ramp length 5.40 m; width 4.00 m; height 3.85 m; height, aft of wing 4.00 m.

The Airbus A400M will operate in many configurations including cargo transport, troop transport, Medical evacuation, aerial refuelling, and electronic surveillance.

The cockpit features a fly-by-wire flight control system with sidestick controllers and flight envelope protection. Like Airbus' other aircraft, the A400M will have a full glass cockpit (all information accessed through large colour screens) and as such will represent a technological leap compared to the older C-130s and C-160s that many countries now operate.

The A400M's wings are primarily carbon fibre reinforced plastic. The eight-bladed Scimitar propeller is also made from a woven composite material. It is powered by four Europrop TP400-D6 rated at 8,250 kW (11,000 hp) each.

EADS and Thales will provide the new Multi-Color Infrared Alerting Sensor (MIRAS) missile warning sensor for the A400M.



Date Country Orders EIS
27 May 2003 60 not available
50 not available
27 not available
25 not available
10 not available
7 not available
1 not available
15 December 2004 0 Order for eight cancelled in 2009
8 December 2005 4 not available
Total: 184


See also


  1. Hewson, R. The Vital Guide to Military Aircraft, 2nd ed. Airlife Press, Ltd. 2001.
  3. "Fourth Engine for A400M Brings First Flight Closer". Reuters,
  4. "Static test programme begins on aircraft MSN 5000". EADS, 28 March 2008.
  5. El Rey estrena el Airbus 400, el mayor avión militar de fabricación europea. ELPAÍ
  6. Kaminski-Morrow, David. "Airbus A400M's engine becomes airborne for first time". Flightglobal, 17 December 2008.
  7. "EADS welcomes South Africa's intention to become an A400M partner". EADS, 15 December 2004.
  8. "South Africa signs for A400M transports". Flight International, 3 May 2005.
  9. Engelbrecht, Leon. " SAAF considering A400M alternative". DefenceWeb, 3 April 2009.
  10. Airbus Military signs agreement with Chile Airbus Military.
  11. Airlift Capability Project - Tactical MERX website - Government of Canada
  12. EADS wants A400M contract change, adds delay. Reuters
  15. [1]. Sascha Lange: The End for the Airbus A400M?”. SWP Comments, 26. February 2009.
  16. Airbus-Projekt A400M droht zu scheitern, Der Spiegel, 2009-02-27.
  18. U.K., France Seek Data on Super Hercules Plane, Lockheed Says
  19. "Germany and France Delay Decision on Airbus Military Transport".
  20. Airbus Needs U.S. Help to Dispose of Elephant: Celestine Bohlen
  21. New chance for Europe's A400M transporter
  22. "Airbus gets extension of A400M Contract Moratorium". Bloomberg News, July 27, 2009
  23. "A400M Partners to Renegotiate Contract with EADS". Defense News, July 27, 2009.
  24. "Ministries Delay A400M Meeting". Defense News, July 27, 2009.
  25. A400M powerplant. Airbus Military.
  26. IR Sensors Page 4 english Seite 5 deutsch. IAF.Fraunhofer
  27. EADS and Thales to supply latest-technology missile warner to A400M.

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