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A400 problems range far beyond engines


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From Aviation Week


A400M Problems Range Far Beyond Engines

Jan 23, 2009

By Jens Flottau


PARIS – Airbus is facing much more than just contractual and schedule challenges in its A400M military airlifter program, as the aircraft may need massive re-engineering work to achieve its performance targets.


In turn, numerous issues threaten to make the A400M a less attractive and capable aircraft for its customers, industry sources tell Aviation Week. They come in addition to the well-publicized delays in the flight-test program that are linked to the lagging engine full authority digital engine control (FADEC) development (Aerospace DAILY, Nov. 25, 2008).


One key area of concern appears to be the A400M being overweight, which would negatively affect the aircraft’s payload and range capabilities. Sources close to the program say the aircraft is significantly heavy in its current development status. The first six units to be used in the flight-test program are 12 tons heavier than planned, those sources say. A weight savings campaign has identified a reduction potential of 7 tons. Early production aircraft will only incorporate reductions of 5 tons at the most, leaving payload below the 30-ton mark.


Airbus officials suggest the main performance criteria aren’t at any particular risk. Executive Vice President for Programs Tom Williams says the more he has reviewed the program, the more certain he has become “this is still going to be a bloody good airplane.” The aircraft is beating its short field performance and load targets, he says.


Yet, industry sources say the weight problem could well turn out to be the primary issue with the aircraft, rather than engine software. One observer believes the A400M payload will end up 3-4 tons below the original target even after all possible design changes, which could include the introduction of carbon fiber in noncritical areas. The three-year time frame proposed by EADS between the first flight and first delivery at the end of 2012 at the earliest would suggest that modifications to some parts of the aircraft structure also are possible.


Sources close to the Europrop International engine consortium say that FADEC issues with the TP400 are expected to be resolved by June. The EADS chief executive said earlier this month that once an acceptable standard FADEC was provided, the A400M could fly around one month later. But in addition to software, there are also hardware issues surrounding the engines. Because of unexpectedly high loads, cracks were found in some of the original design engine gearbox casings. Those needed to be partially strengthened. The sources say that upgraded casings already have been delivered to the Sevilla, Spain, final-assembly line and will be installed to replace the original parts.


Some special operational performance goals also are in doubt, according to people familiar with the details. The A400M may not be able to fly “Sarajevo profile” steep approaches because of possible flutter issues with the propellers.


Finally, some systems may be rejected by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), people familiar with the program say. The agency appears not to agree with how oxygen bottles and fire protection systems are installed in the fuselage and main gear bay. If no agreement is reached, the A400M will not be given EASA approval needed for the planned civil certification.


An EASA official says the agency does not comment on ongoing certification processes.

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  • 2 months later...

From Aviation Week's ARES Blog


July Horror Show Finale

Posted by Douglas Barrie at 3/31/2009 8:01 AM CDT




The fate of the Airbus A400M – at least as far as the UK is concerned – will be decided by July.


Any bets on a decision being coughed-up on the last day of Parliament before the summer recess? The august members’ minds will be on sun, sea, and sand, rather than the mess of a development progam which is leaving a hole in the Royal Air Force’s lift capability.


Airbus CEO Tom Enders was quoted in Parliament, March 30, by Liam Fox, the Conservative shadow defense-secretary, as saying “It is better to put an end to the horror than have horror without end,” - apparently popular German phrase.


Enders comments over the weekend also provoked a flurry of activity from EADS saying that it would not pull the plug on the program, while reiterating “the contract signed in 2003 does not provide the necessary conditions for the successful development of the program.”


Fox describes the program as a “fiasco”. Certainly so far those involved have not particularly covered themselves in glory. Irrespective however – whether the program stands or falls – the requirements will remain.


John Hutton, the Def, Sec. told Fox that the UK “will come to a decision on the A400M in July.”


The industrial implications of pulling out – for the UK – may well temper political exasperation with industry’s failings. Additional lift – leased or bought – will be required until when, and if, the A400M eventually turns up at RAF Brize Norton.

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I've read today in spanish papers a press release of Airbus Military about his "compromise" with the A400M program, but I don't see it in the official site, without new news from december 2008:



I only find the press release in spanish, and I think is a repetition of another of february 2009 !!!

EADS confirma la continuidad de su "compromiso total" en la construcción del A400M






Reference to the february 2009 press release, the same headlines

El consorcio aeroespacial europeo EADS reafirmó hoy "su compromiso total"



I think is EADS who needs the "total compromise" of the governments and purcharsers, and not the inverse thing, I also want to sell inexistent productos to candid governments :P

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From Defense Aerospace


Ministers Postpone Decision by One Month

(Source: compiled by defense-aerospace.com; issued June 23, 2009)


PARIS --- Seeking major concessions from prime contractor Airbus Military, Britain yesterday vetoed a French-German proposal to extend ongoing talks on the A400M military transport aircraft until the end of the year.


Instead, defense ministers of the seven partner nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and UK) agreed to meet again in Paris in late July to decide and how, to take the program forward.


A major advance at the Seville meeting is that ministers determined that, “subject to the fulfilment by industry of certain conditions, the A400M is still a feasible programme.” (see below)


British defense procurement minister Quentin Davies said after the meeting in Seville, Spain, that “we need to make a very great deal of progress with industry in order to save this project. Asked whether the UK will stay in the program, he said "We will be if we can be."


A technical committee is to examine all aspects of the aircraft’s production plans and report back to ministers. The intention is that, on the base of this report, ministers will then define the “perimeter for the negotiations on production, delivery and financial schedules” so that all parties will know exactly what will be discussed once negotiations begin, Spanish Defense Undersecretary Constantino Méndez said after the meeting.


Britain, under growing financial pressure, demanded an annual schedule of payments for the additional costs arising from the program’s three-year delay. But these were not yet finalized, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin said, so “rather than risk a deadlock I proposed a grace period of one more month.”


While France, Germany and Spain are focusing on the program’s long-term potential, and have accepted the principle of a renegotiated contract that would spare Airbus Military major financial penalties for the three-year delay, Britain is insisting that the terms of the original contract be enforced, and that any concessions made by governments should be matched by Airbus.


The A400M contract does not allow any partner country to withdraw unilaterally, Spanish Defense Minister Charme Chacon noted after the meeting, while Mendez added that damages and financial penalties for late delivery are issued to be resolved bilaterally between nations and the manufacturer. (ends)




Joint Press Release on the Meeting of the A400M Programme at the Level of Ministers of Defence

(Source: Spanish Ministry of Defence; issued June 22, 2009)


On the 22nd June 2009 The Ministers of Defence of the seven nations participating in the European programme A400M – Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom – met to receive and analyse the results reached by the Group of Experts set by the Nations to examine the status of the programme and its way forward.


As originally conceived, the A400M programme has proven to be a far greater challenge for industry than previously anticipated, suffering significant deviations from the initial forecast.


In order to rebuild the confidence that the programme objectives can be delivered within an acceptable level of risk, the nations and industry agreed in April 2009 to a standstill period.


During this period a group of experts from the nations have scrutinised the programme, arriving at the conclusion that subject to the fulfilment by industry of certain conditions, the A400M is still a feasible programme.


During the aforesaid standstill period, the Nations and industry have been exploring a commercial, technological and managerial framework, within which the new terms and conditions of any possible negotiation might be contained. A number of issues still need to be resolved, before a negotiation phase can be entered.


Therefore, in order to ensure ourselves that the conditions offered by industry fully satisfy the Nations, it has been decided to allow, in agreement with industry, an extension to the standstill period, with a decision being taken by Partner Nations by the end of July.

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From Defense Aerospace


Op-Ed: The Case Against the A400M

(Source: Royal United Services Institute; issued June 17, 2009)


Bjoern Seibert argues that the United Kingdom should end its involvement in the A400M military transport programme.


Operational needs, budgetary shortfalls and existing concerns over the programme means that the UK should opt for alternative viable off-the shelf-solutions.


Next week, defence ministers from the seven A400M partner nations will head for Spain to discuss the future of the controversial programme with the EADS/Airbus leadership. Days before the meeting, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and French President, Nicolas Sarkozy called for a six-month extension of the negotiations with EADS on the fate of the A400M. In so doing, both appear to signal their willingness to bail out the programme. Each country has distinct reasons for doing so; they do not apply to the United Kingdom.


The time has come for Her Majesty’s Government to end its participation in the controversial programme. The combination of operational needs, budgetary shortfalls and uncertainties over the A400M programme make this painful step necessary.


Growing Capability Gap


Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have underscored the growing need for tactical and strategic airlift. As the UK seeks to maintain its expeditionary warfare posture, there is little reason to believe that tomorrow’s demands will differ from today’s. Projecting forces to distant theatres in a short period of time will remain vital. At the same time, the UK’s airlift capability is eroding.


The seventeen C-130Ks that the RAF currently operates will be withdrawn from service in 2012 – four years beyond their original out-of-service date. The remaining transport fleet of C-130Js and C-17s are seriously overstretched. Replacements are urgently needed to avoid a widening capability gap with an effect on operations.


Uncertainties of A400M programme


The intended replacement aircraft, the Airbus A400M, has been haunted by considerable problems and uncertainties, however. Of these, three stand out.


First, there is uncertainty as to when the A400M would be available. The first aircraft were contractually pledged for delivery to the French Air Force in 2009. This date has been subject to slippage however, and the A400M has not even undergone flight-testing yet. A recent study by the French Senate suggests delays of at least three to four years. For the UK, this would mean the first A400M would only enter into service by 2014/15 – several years after the retirement of the C-130Ks. Even these dates are not guaranteed. EADS has not confirmed when the aircraft would be available, and is requesting time until the end of this year to come up with a new estimate.


Second, schedule uncertainty is coupled with performance uncertainty. There is in fact no guarantee at this point that the A400M’s performance will be that contractually agreed upon. EADS has already announced that it cannot deliver some navigation and low-level flight capabilities. The aircraft is also considerably heavier than anticipated at this stage of development. According to the French Senate’s report, the aircraft weighs twelve tonnes more than projected. This could shorten range, reduce payload and lengthen take off. Thus, the actual performance of the A400M remains uncertain.


Third and finally, the price of the aircraft remains uncertain. The current unit price is estimated at EUR 145 million. But EADS wants to renegotiate this price to reflect much higher than anticipated development costs. Some estimates predict an increase of at least thirty per cent in unit price.


In sum, the fundamental variables of in-service dates, performance and price of the A400M remain shrouded in uncertainty.


The Alternative Solution and its Benefits


At the same time, an alternative solution is available. Rather than procuring the A400M, the United Kingdom can order additional C-130J and C-17 aircraft. This alternative has at least five advantages:


--First, in contrast to the uncertainty surrounding the A400M’s eventual performance, the C-130J and C-17 are combat tested aircraft. Both have performed extremely well in Iraq and Afghanistan.


-- Second, a smaller inventory of airlifters is preferable to a larger one. Each aircraft type requires a separate and costly support structure. The RAF currently operates C-130Js and C- 17s. Their logistical support chains already exist, and the RAF would not need to re-train crews to operate a new aircraft.


-- Third, the C-130J is in service with many air forces, and both C-130Js and C-17s are operated by the US Air Force. This could ease logistical support as the RAF could take advantage globally of the mutual service assistance between national air forces. This will not be the same with the A400M. Outside Europe, RAF operations will have to be supported from the main base.


-- Fourth, both aircraft could, if ordered now, enter into service prior to the potential in-service date of the A400M for the RAF.


-- Fifth and finally, acquiring additional C-130Js and C-17s instead of the A400M will likely be the less costly solution. The A400M will eventually be only slightly less expensive than the much larger C-17 and considerably more expensive than the C- 130J. The costs of expensive bridging solutions should also be factored into the overall cost of the A400M programme, in addition to the unit price.


Continuation for Fear of Repercussions?


Arguments by proponents of the A400M programme fall into two categories: those who fear political repercussions, and those who fear repercussions on the domestic defence and aerospace industry. While both are a concern, they do not justify the continuation of the programme.


The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the programme will affect and likely upset some European partners. It could complicate current negotiations with the aircraft maker. Alternative buyers may have to be found, or the unit price for the other partners could go up. However, according to the CEO of EADS, the UK’s exit from the A400M programme would not mean its end.


Nor is it likely to mean the UK’s exclusion from future European defence collaboration. The United Kingdom cannot be ignored as a customer, and its companies possess undeniable industrial know-how. Like its partners, the UK needs to carefully balance the costs and benefits of the programme. That such an analysis leads to different outcomes is not least due to the different industrial stakes and outlook in the project.


As for the industrial repercussions, the British aerospace and defence companies are strong and internationally competitive, successful both in the European and U.S. markets. The success of the domestic defence industry is not least highlighted by the UK’s position as one of the world’s largest arms exporters.


Having said that, it cannot be excluded that the UK’s withdrawal from the A400M programme could carry consequences for some companies. The effect on the overall defence industry, however, will not be significant; and the United Kingdom should not be held hostage by companies or special interest groups.


At next week’s meeting, Her Majesty’s Government will have a choice: spend six more months renegotiating fundamentals of the contract with EADS, or withdraw from the controversial programme. It should have the courage to do the latter.


Bjoern H. Seibert is an Associate Fellow at RUSI and Research Affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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