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Special planes : the Airbus 400 military airlifter (A400M).

by Elco B Sat Apr 1st, 2006 at 03:17:55 PM EST

On 28 february 2006 the new TP400-D6 engine fitted with FH386 propeller made his first succesful testrun.
Also in february, Airbus'Filton plant (near Bristol,UK) started machining wingribs (with machines provided by Japanese Makino).
Yes ; no, the A400M doesn't exist yet! First test-flight is sheduled for 2008.
But this plane is the result of military wet dreams, European politics, international financial constructions and there is even a Russian connection and maybe American manipulation.

                                           A CAD model of the A400M.

Military wet dreams.
Since 1989 the 'Cold War' is over. Inter-theatre war-fighting; peace-keeping and humanitarian interventions are the order of the day, often against ill-defined threats or natural disasters and with less than well prepared response plans - but, most ironically with reduced budgets.

At a time of the so-called 'peace dividend', the armed forces of the USA, Europe and other regional powers around the world have been called to intervene more often than at any time during the Cold War. The calls on military air transportation are now different.
Also, the existing fleet of  military airlifters in Europe was agiing and hardly could provide strategical capacities. This situation led to the SALIS-agreements to use the Ukrainian giant planes Antonov-124 as described in my previous post.
The European military, influenced by the larger scale of cooperation within NATO and the growing EU, had many discussions on the matter and politicians finally were convinced. In this years (1990-2000) the European military industry was reorganising, Airbus was growing fast....industrial capabilities were on place to elaborate an European solution rather than shopping in the US as in earlyer times.


European politics, international financial constructions.
European NATO members issued a Request for Proposal in September 1997 and it was to respond to this RFP that the aerospace industries of these nations came together in the partnership now known as Airbus Military. June 2001 saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which represented a major milestone towards the industrial launch of the A400M.
On May 27th 2003, a contract was signed between Airbus Military and OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en Matière d'Armement), representing Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey, and United Kingdom for a total of 180 aircraft. The industrial programme was formally launched on May 31st 2003. This will lead to a first flight in 2008 and a first delivery in 2009.

The picture above shows (very general) how things are organised. For those who want to dig out more ; here are the links:

In the meantime, There are contracts  with South-Africa for 8 planes and with Malaysia for 4 planes.
Also a Memorandum of Understanding with Chile was signed but there is doubt they will buy since the election of the new president, Michelle Bachelet .

Russian connection and maybe American manipulation.

The above picture shows a crash-landed Antonov-70 in 2001. Yes , Antonov had two flying proto-types af an airlifter. Both crashed, due to external events (no malfunctions found in the planes).
This is a long and very complicated story, but in short it goes like this

  • Russia and Ukraine developed together a new airlifter : their needs were the same as the EU country's.
  • The plane was build in Ukraine : political important because Ukraine seeks better connection with the EU and Russia trying to hold Ukraine under his influence.
  • Antonov proposed a 'westernized' variant of the plane for several reasons : aerospace-industry in need , and they had a proven technology to sell. The international market (in 2000) was estimated at 2700 planes of that type would be needed before 2020.
  • Price was set around 60 milion Euro's. Russia would buy about 100 planes, Ukraine about 60. A number of planes would be delivered to the Czech Republic,  Hungary and maybe other former USSR-country's as 'repayements'.
  • Germany showed interest and ordered a study of the Antonov-70 by DASA, Germans major aerospace industry. A joint-venture between DASA and Antonov would be lucrative for both Ukraine and Germany.
  • Even France for a moment considered the An-70. The plane could be delivered much earlier than the A400M but also much cheaper (The A400M was listed at 100 milion Euro's)
  • Antonov lost his contracts with Russia (which choosed for the Russian Iljoeshin.
  • The UK started leasing American C-17 heavy-lifters and that way they forced the other European country's to take a decision.
  • The USA tried to sell their proposal of a modernized Hercules C-130. With their political weight the only result they got was that the small country' waited for the final choice of the major players : France and Germany.
  • The A400M is now in production, Antonov finally sold no one of their An-70 notwitstanding they proved the plane was excellent , technical and financial.
  • The A400M was to be designed from scratch, years after Antonov had a proven design. German engineers which worked togheter with the Ukrainian work now for Airbus. A quote from a Russian site :

The An-70 is a unique aircraft superior to any other transport plane in its class. European aerospace monopoly that is Airbus was not so much concerned over losing the FLA* contract as it was afraid of letting Antonov on Western European markets and in particular on defense markets. Today some An-70 developers allege that Airbus "borrowed" many features of the An-70 for its A400M: in the end the "evaluation" of the An-7X by the DaimlerChrysler was not a complete waste of time for the German company. Europe's EADS is actively trying to attract some of the An-70 developers to working on the A400M program. These attempts will continue and already there are reports of various distinct technical solutions developed for the An-70 being applied to the A400M to make the aircraft more affordable.
Future Large Aircraft.

The USA is still trying to hold some influence : The Netherlands remain partners (Apache and Chinook helicopters and C-130 's) , Poland  and maybe others are under heavy American pressure.

My point:
The A400M is about huge amounts of money, political and military influences and hard economical competition.
All party's involved try to sell the de facto military plane as a humanitarian need : quote from one of the above mentioned websites:

Earthquakes, floods, famine and drought are natural occurances that often require prompt and effective international humanitarian assistance to avert disaster.

Humanitarian support and interventions by international organisations such as the UN and NATO cover the whole range of relief missions and require the mobilisation of substantial logistic resources.

I agree, a plane with capacity's as proposed and developed is needed. But as I already mentioned in a previous post about the Beriev-200: have we to let control over those things to the military?  Wouldn't be better to create a European CIVIL organisation to handle this?...Yeah, I have a dream.
Update Sunday 02/04/06 I stole this from jimstaro :

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed--those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending its money alone--it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. Dwight Eisenhower, Speech (1953)

Heartfeltly agreed.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Apr 1st, 2006 at 04:26:38 PM EST
An entertaining reverse on the traditional Cold War game of the Soviets enthusiastically borrowing and copying Western technology.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Apr 1st, 2006 at 04:42:26 PM EST
Well, when it came to military technology, there was alot of borrowing and copying both ways.
by Trond Ove on Sat Apr 1st, 2006 at 06:22:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you know of an example?

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sat Apr 1st, 2006 at 06:31:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't recall a single Cold War example at the moment, nor a clearly military one afterwards, but Soviet/Russian/Ukrainian rocket technology has been bought and adapted by US firms, and now there is European cooperation too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Apr 2nd, 2006 at 04:58:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, from a Russian website :3/10/2003:
In mid-2001 Russia's "Rosaviakosmos"
state space and aviation agency signed an agreement with Europe's EADS to
co-operate on the A400M development. This agreement was broadly criticized in
Russia and Ukraine and the Medium Transport Aircraft consortium (STS) officially
declined to help EADS build the A400M. The STS actively protested repeated attempts
by EADS to enlist help for the A400M program of various aviation companies in Russia
and Ukraine involved in the An-70 development.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Apr 2nd, 2006 at 06:49:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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