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European Military Transport Aircraft

C-160 Transall
C-212 Aviocar
L-410 UVP
Airlift operations are not supposed to be as exciting as aerial dogfights or as threatening as bombing runs. According to airlift pioneer Lieutenant General William J. Tunner, "A successful airlift is about as glamorous as drops of water on a stone." But airlift operations, and the planes that support them, are essential to the successful outcome of modern war. Without transport planes delivering soldiers, weapons, trucks, food, fuel, communications equipment, and many other things to a war theater, a military’s ability to fight anywhere on Earth is compromised. In addition, airlift provides the military with a humanitarian capability to aid areas hit by famine or natural disasters or blockaded by war or enemies.

Airlift was not a mission concentrated on in the early years of flight, primarily because the small size of airplanes did not allow for large cargo or passenger loads. Then in the 1930s, Germany developed for Lufthansa Airlines the Junkers Ju.52 trimotor as an 18-seat airliner that could double as a transport or bomber for the Luftwaffe. When civil war broke out in Spain in 1936, Germany sent assistance to the Fascist Nationalists. Twenty Ju.52s were sent immediately to Spanish Morocco, where the main part of the Nationalist Army, including leader Francisco Franco, was trapped, unable to sail across the Strait of Gibraltar. Throughout August and September, the German transports airlifted the stranded troops to Seville, Spain. During 677 flights they transported 20,000 soldiers. From Seville, the Nationalist Army was able to expand and eventually defeat the Republicans and win the war.

With a few exceptions—such as airlift in humanitarian and peacekeeping operations and the participation of the French Air Force (FAF) in peripheral conflicts—Continental European air power was relegated to deterrence postures in the Cold War era. With over 4,000 miles of ocean separating alliance partners, the United States required strategic airlift assets to deploy its forces in support of alliance collective defense obligations. In contrast, European nations lacked the need to develop a strategic airlift capability due the majority of war fighting expected to occur within the range of European tactical airlift orconvoys.

In the post–Cold War era, the demand for airlift in humanitarian and peace support operations has increased. In the early 1990s, Bosnia in particular called for military airlift. Under the most adverse conditions, Western air forces kept Sarajevo alive by mounting an air bridge. Airlift was also used for interventions and humanitarian relief operations in Africa and elsewhere.

The development of a European Security and Defence Identity within NATO has been ongoing since the 1996 Berlin Summit, but this effort has been given new momentum in the past year by the efforts of the European Union to develop its own Common Foreign and Security Policy. British Prime Minister Tony Blair neatly summed up the challenge facing many of the allies: "We Europeans need to restructure our defence capabilities so that we can project force, can deploy our troops, ships and planes beyond their home bases and sustain them there, equipped to deal with whatever level of conflict they may face". An initiative by German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping to create a European airlift command was endorsed by his government and France at the November 1999 Franco-German summit. This airlift command would exercise common management of European military airlift capabilities and would co-ordinate with civilian resources that might be utilised.

By the 1990s the main European programs were Alenia's G.222 and C-27] Spartan, and CASA's C-212 and its CN-235/295 joint venture with Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara (IPTN), Indonesia's sole aircraft manufacturing company. European production of transport aircraft wass projected at 211 units between 1999 and 2008, but valued at a mere $2.7 billion, which represents only a 7.4 percent market share over the decade. In terms of units, the European and the American shares have an approximately 3-to-l relationship each year, but in terms of value, the American share dominated at over 90 percent for most years.

Multilateral efforts to develop a successor for the C-130 Hercules and the C-160 Transall began in 1982. This joint venture underwent several changes not only in the managerial structures and number of participating nations but also in the project and aircraft names. The A400M is sized between Lockheed Martin's C-130 and Boeing's C-17, and it will be built by Airbus Military Company (AMC), whose consortium partners are BAE Systems, EADS, Tusas Aerospace Industries (Turkey), Ogma (Portugal), and the Flabel consortium (Belgium). The A400M could be well positioned to capture a significant portion of the military airlift market.

An alternative to European aircraft programs was buying American or Russian. This option, however, had serious industrial and political consequences, such as potential US market domination. In 2001 the RAF leased four C-17 Globemasters from the Boeing Company with the option to buy or extend at the end of a seven-year period. Lacking adequate airlift capacities, the German armed forces chartered Ukrainian and Russian An-124 transport aircraft for operations in Afghanistan.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2022 18:51:08 ZULU