Airbus seeks A400M opportunities

The RAF A400M arrives at Avalon on Monday. (Paul Sadler)

Last year saw the Airbus A400M airlifter achieve some significant milestones while the program also worked to resolve a technical issue with the aircraft engine’s gearbox.

“Overall the aeroplane is a significantly better, more capable aeroplane than it was a year ago,” said Fernando Alonso, head of military aircraft for Airbus Defence and Space, at the Avalon Airshow on Tuesday.

“We’ve gone from a purely cargo aeroplane to a tactical aeroplane.”

The A400M is now certified to drop paratroopers and air loads, and can operate from unpaved runways, while the second iteration of its defensive suite has been rolled out, Alonso explained.

“The aeroplanes we are now delivering are tactical aeroplanes,” said Alonso, with 18 A400Ms handed over to customers in 2016, just short of Airbus’s target of around 20.

The main reason for the lower delivery rate was an issue with the aircraft engine’s advanced gearbox, which Alonso labelled as a “crisis”. But an interim fix implemented in 2016 has increased inspection intervals for the gearbox from just 20 flight hours to 600, Alonso explained.

“It was a difficult year but overall production is under control and the capabilities are getting better.”

For 2017, says Alonso, the focus now shifts to marketing the aircraft for new export orders.

“This year is the year we are going to be focusing on selling the aeroplane, promoting the aeroplane. That is why we are here.”

Alonso comes to Avalon after visiting New Zealand where Airbus is marketing the A400M to meet a requirement to replace the RNZAF’s C-130H Hercules and Boeing 757 transports.

Australia is a longer-term potential prospect for the A400M, given Defence’s Integrated Investment Program released in February 2016 detailed a requirement for new heavy airlifters which are expected to replace the RAAF’s C-130Js.

But, said Alonso, “We’re at the point where we want to sell this aeroplane, we need to sell this aeroplane. So whether it is today, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, we will be engaged with them. I think we have the right product and we are developing it more and more, so we will be here.

“If Australia wants the aeroplane tomorrow, the day after tomorrow we’ll be here offering it.”   

A Royal Air Force A400M is on display at Avalon, having crossed the Tasman from New Zealand where it was on display at the RNZAF’s Air Tattoo on the weekend.


  1. Chris says

    I’ve always predicted our interest in the A400M.
    I did see it sitting between the C-130J and the C-17A which is clearly incorrect as it’s being positioned to replace the C-130J all together.

  2. Keith says

    The A400M is probably the best aircraft to replace our ageing C-130 H series Hercules for the RNZAF. With a population of just over 4 million we couldn’t afford more than two C-17s when the last 6 came off the production line but the estimated running cost of $20,000 an hour put it out of reach for us. So it looks like the A 400M would be the perfect fit for New Zealand but we may only be able to afford three maybe four of them.

  3. Peter Bourke says

    Interesting that RAF will retain several C-130Js and both German and France are purchasing C-130Js., all to operate in parallel with A400M. Perhaps they are complementary types.

  4. Peter says

    There has been mention of some countries being so disillusioned by the delays & performance of the A400M that they have ordered C-130Js instead, the RAF being one. Regardless of the reasons, the C-130Js arrive on time, on budget and work as advertised. The USAF, USMC & National Guard are flying Herc airframes around, some of which are E models and H models. Even their J models have been operating in the MEO with the same destructive effects that has effected ours – high UV, high ground temps like 50C and incredibly fine sand getting into everything causing premature wear So with Mr Trumps new directive to McDonnell Douglas to get the pricing right on defence purchases, and no chance of the US ever buying A400Ms, a large and on-going order for new C-130s would be likely on the horizon for the US. Multiple upgrades to a new model ( C-130K ? ) & multiple variants ( MC-130.. ) would give the RAAF a great opportunity to add our order whenever the timing requires them, and the budget allows. FMS deals have proved their worth & the RAAF may even get some input on required features. Maybe the government could get some local industry spinoff too.

  5. Bill says

    What about issue of Pallets between the aircraft ? A400 Pallets are not normal size

    There is an issues of A400 pallets being a different size, to those used on C-130’s and C-17’s if some could clarify, this issue please ?

    That is why I understand the USAF rejected the A400

    If so this cause a logistic bottleneck, when the troops on the ground need supplies

  6. Mick181 says

    McDonnell-Douglas hasn’t existed for 20 years, the failure of the YF-23 to get up pretty much finished them off, they were brought out by Boeing in the mid 90s. C-130K is the designation the RAF uses for their older C-130s. The USAF is going to have to make a decision soon about a Herc replacement they still have 100s of Es & Hs in service. There has been some design work on a 4 Engine tilt roter.

  7. Sam Austin says

    Shouldn’t Fernando Alonso be at the F1 testing in Spain? Or has his Mclaren broken again and he is moonlighting for Airbus… haha

  8. Mick181 says

    When has the US ever seriously looked at the A400? don’t know if they have a req for a Aircraft in that size range somewhere between the C-130 & C-17. The A400 is probably a better suite for the RAAF with the C-27 in service the A400 sits closer to 1/2 way between it and the C-17 than the Herc does.

  9. Peter says

    sorry for my mistake. A bit too rushed to get some input, I did mean Lockheed Martin, not McD Doug. My mention of C-130K was just the next alphabetical suffix after J. Anyway, my point was, why jump to a different supplier when the RAAF have such a wealth of experience with Hercs ( when we received our C-130A models, the RAAF was the 1st export customer ), and as per C-17s, F/A-18s, P-8A etc etc, a worldwide logistics chain of support. The number of existing variants provides so many options for end users.

  10. Robert Hodgson says

    As far as I can research the A400 carries 9 standard 463L military pallets, with 7 on the main deck and 2 on the ramp.
    Bill mention of different pallet sizes is the first I have heard of this and researching I can find no other reference

  11. Mick181 says

    At this stage i would say the RAAF has a wait and see attitude towards the Herc replacement, all the DWP says is a large Airlifter. Yes the C-130J would definitely be the favourite as we could buy it FMS from the states with all the bells and Whistles such as self protection systems ready to go. The KC-390 on the other hand would need Australia to fit a lot of those systems ourselves as we would want the same as fitted to the C-17 & C-27.
    The other possible contender is the Kawasaki C-2, which sits between the C-130 & A400. Australia will need the new Airlifter to be able to Link into the rest of the ADF, comms wise so how much work will be involved there could effect any choice. The C-130 wont need a lot, the others is a different story.

    Thanks AA for your daily updates on Avalon, wish i was going. Keep up the great work.

  12. Derrick says

    @Mick181, you know that Boeing are working on the flight system for the KC-390, and Boeing have stated that they will support in aftermarket sales once it becomes operational………

  13. matheus ugraita says

    No boeing will only help in the sale and support of the kc-390 the in-flight trials are all made by the brazilians of embraer

  14. Derrick says

  15. Adrian P says

    The Union Flag of the united Kingdom is not symmetrical.
    On ZM401 the flag on the starboard side is not painted correctly. OOPS!