Future Large Aircraft - FLA
Avion de Transport Futur - ATF
|Germany||53 + 7 options|
|TOTAL [July 2012]||174 + 7 options|
An important argument in favor of the A400M is the changed geopolitical situation on account of which crisis-oriented and quick-reaction air transport increasingly gains in importance. As a result, the demand for transport aircraft for humanitarian and military applications, as for instance for UNO and NATO missions, continued to grow. Another reason lies in the fact that transporters such as the Transall C-160 and the Hercules C-130 which today are in operation throughout Europe will gradually have to be replaced with new aircraft.
The A400M is a military transport aircraft designed to meet the requirements of eight European Air Forces (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom) to replace their fleets of C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall. These aircraft are currently in service and will become obsolete in the next century. With the A400M, the goal is to standardize Europe's fleet of tactical transports. The relatively larger production run allows greater production rates which will then reduce the prices per aircraft for airframe, engines and spare parts. Moreover, this will provide for an improved interoperability level and the option of consolidating major maintenance operations in a joint industrial consortium. The harmonized military requirements of eight countries have been published in the "European Staff Requirement" (ESR).
The total number of aircraft required by these countries amounts to approximately 300. The A400M began 1982 as the British Aerospace / Aerospatiale / MBB / Lockheed Future International Military Airlifter (FIMA) program. Requirements were originally stated as 297 aircraft—75 for Germany, 50 for France, 45 for the U.K., 44 for Italy, 36 for Spain, 26 for Turkey, 12 for Belgium, and nine for Portugal. FIMA became the Euroflag Future Large Aircraft (FLA), which was turned over to prime contractor Airbus Industrie in September 1994. At the July 2000 Farnborough Air Show, a joint declaration indicated an intent to buy a total of 225 European A400M military transport aircraft. The nations intend to procure, in an initial order, aircraft in the following numbers which will be sufficient to launch the program; Belgium 7 aircraft, France 50 aircraft, Germany 73 aircraft, Italy 16 aircraft, Luxembourg 1 aircraft in close co-operation with Belgium, Spain 27 aircraft, Turkey 26 aircraft and the United Kingdom 25 aircraft.
Following discussions, OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en Matière d'Armement), representing Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey, and United Kingdom signed the A400M program contract on December 18, 2001, committing to a total of 196 aircraft. This number was subsequently been revised downwards in the light of budgetary constraints, In December 2002 Berlin decided that it would cut its order for the Airbus A400M from 73 to 60. This was certain to raise the overall costs for all eight European countries involved in its production.
CASA, Aerospatiale, Airbus, Alenia, British Aerospace, DASA, Flabel, Ogma and TAI are taking part in A400M (anteriormente FLA, Future Large Aircraft) program under the management of Airbus Military. The company's responsibility is to manage the development program of the Airbus A400M military transport, formerly known as the FLA (Future Large Aircraft). The new designation denotes that the aircraft is the first of a new series of military transports, complementary to the existing range of civil airliners produced by Airbus Industrie.
In 1994 the UK decided to procure 25 C130J Hercules aircraft from Lockhead Martin as a first tranche replacement for its ageing C130K Hercules aircraft. The UK also rejoined the European program to determine the scope for replacing the remainder of the C130K fleet with the proposed Future Large Aircraft (now A400M). A competition was conducted by 4 of the 7 nations to consider the Boeing C-17 and Lockhead Martin C130J alongside the A400M.
The Strategic Defence Review (SDR) issued by the British Government in July 1998 made a very strong case for the need for a dramatically improved air transport capability to support the proposed Joint Rapid Reaction Forces. However, as of early 1999 the French Air Force was considering a range of options for a new military transport aircraft, including the Airbus Future Large Aircraft, the Russian An-70 and a mix of C-17s and C-130Js. Lockheed Martin has proposed the C-130J-30 to Belgium, France, Spain and the UK in competition with the proposed European Airbus A400M. The European home market for FLA represents some 300 aircraft. Outside Europe a sizeable market can be identified for a military transport aircraft in the FLA category.
Germany led a NATO partnership that would lease up to 20 C-17 or An-124 airlifters for use until the A400M is in full production. This would be the airlift-equivalent of NATO's E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System squadron. This initiative could see NATO either lease or purchase a squadron of heavy-lift aircraft, with the Boeing C-17 and the Ukrainian Antonov An-124 in the frame. While the latter candidate may prove politically attractive to Berlin, the C-17 option will provide interoperability with the US Air Force. The British have four C-17 aircraft on lease from Boeing, ostensibly as a stopgap until the A400M is delivered.
In July 2008 France and the United Kingdom stated that they were committed to finding a positive outcome for the renegotiation of the A400M program. The principle behind this renegotiation is that the company bear the consequences of the program delays and contribute to compensating for the resulting capability deficit. The two governments were open, on the basis of these principles, to amendments allowing the pursuit of the program under reasonable conditions. In late July 2009 defense ministers from the seven European nations that launched the troubled A400M military transport plane agreed to renegotiate the contract for the delayed project.
In January 2009 Airbus Military suggested to resume series production only once adequate maturity was reached, based on flight test results. With this proposed new approach, the first delivery of the A400M would then occur around three years after first flight. Airbus Military and EADS will only be able to reliably determine all financial implications once a committed industrial plan, including the availability of systems, is fully stabilized and once OCCAR's position on the proposal is known. This proposed new approach would not compromise the ultimate qualities and the exceptional characteristics of the airplane, with the most advanced logistic and tactical capabilities.
Numerous limitations and problems with the model caused delay in the operational test. By 2016 the engines of all A400M with more than 200 flight hours total running time are examined after 20 hours of flight time. In practice, this means that after each extended long-haul flight, the engines must be checked. The extremely powerful engines, each with 11,000 hp, hve been in the past a weak point of the aircraft. In particular, the transmission provoked worries. It is manufactured by the Italian manufacturer Avio, of the US group General Electric. A400M experts speak of several problems with the drive, including an excessive wear of the giant propellers, which are about five meters in diameter.
Cracks were discovered in the fuselage of some delivered A400M models. To observers the A400M Material debacle was evidence of the risks from the competition for new aircraft materials. On the one side are the major producers of aluminum alloys such as Alcoa (USA) or Constellium (Netherlands), who feared for their business since high-strength and lightweight carbon fiber materials hold (CFRP) have become more widely used in aircraft.
Airbus pointed out that neither the flight safety or operational capability was impaired. In 2011 an aluminum alloy showed "a previously unknown material behavior". Since the first A400M model made its first flight there were abnormalities in components made of modern aluminum-zinc alloys. The experts were baffled, since the aluminum alloy was approved for use in 2008. Therefore, the A400M deliveries began from fall of 2013, first to France. Two years later the stress tests in Airbus laboratories first caused suspicion.
Airbus had been discussed for years by the best military transport aircraft in its class: The A400M can theoretically but far more cargo over longer distances and at higher speed transport than comparable machines. France already had the smaller Airbus competitor, the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules. It wss ordered because it can refuel any helicopter in flight, while the A400M is currently cannot, though this was initially planned. By 2016 German parliamentary and military circles were giving consideration to order another, smaller transport aircraft, in addition to the A400M. In 2021, the last C-160 Transall — a two-engine transporter smaller than the Hercules — was to retire, and Germany would encounter what officials considered a capability gap.
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