Future tanker work tied to C295 buy

written by australianaviation.com.au | March 14, 2012
KC-30A A39-002 taxis before take off at RAAF Base Amberley. (Dept of Defence)

For the first time, Airbus Military has directly linked the possibility of future A330 MRTT conversion work for overseas programs being performed in Australia with its bid for the Air 8000 Phase 2 battlefield airlifter (BFA) program.

Speaking to media in Sydney today, Airbus Military program manager Valentin Merino said that, while it was offering the BFA and the sixth tanker as two separate proposals, Airbus Military would guarantee it would place conversion work for possible future Indian, Singaporean and other international MRTT buys in Australia only if the RAAF bought a sixth KC-30A MRTT and the C295 to replace the Caribou.

Merino added that the ADF could acquire 10 C295s as well as a sixth KC-30A and still have $300 million left over compared to an acquisition of 10 C-27Js through the US FMS process. He said the life cycle cost of the C295 is far lower than the C-27J’s, offering up to $400 million in savings across the fleet’s life.

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Despite not being requested to, Airbus says it submitted ‘tender quality’ proposals to the ADF for the C295 on December 16, but to date had not received a formal response.

When asked by Australian Aviation if a sixth MRTT was ordered but the C295 was unsuccessful whether the future MRTT work guarantee would still be placed at Brisbane’s ‘centre for excellence’, EADS Australia CEO Fabrice Rochereau indicated Airbus would be “less open” to the prospect of more conversions being done in Australia, saying it is “a package deal,” adding that, “we want to sustain our footprint here…the tanker conversion would be part of the Australian industry capability of the C295.”

Merino added that, “The sixth tanker runs in isolation, the C295 runs in isolation. But if both [are taken up], we are saying we can maintain the final assembly line for tankers not only for Australia but for export.”

Three of the five RAAF MRTTs were converted by Qantas Defence Systems (QDS) at its Brisbane ‘Hangar 1’ facility and have been delivered to the RAAF, with a fifth due to be rolled out in June, leaving the Brisbane facility with no future modification work booked in and a potential loss of up to 250 skilled jobs. Merino said work had already commenced to “dismantle” the hanger’s conversion tooling, and that time was running out for a decision to be made on the sixth aircraft.

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Merino added that a green aircraft – MSN 871  built for Airbus’s failed USAF KC-X bid but which is almost identical to the Qantas specified A330-200s used for the RAAF’s MRTTs – is available now and is as good as new, having only flown a few times, but that it has also been offered to other potential MRTT customers.

Defence’s final Air 8000 Phase 2 recommendation is expected to be decided on by federal cabinet’s National Security and National Accounts Committees on April 24. Defence insiders have indicated an FMS deal for Alenia/L-3 C-27Js is still Defence’s preferred option despite the US Air National Guard C-27J program being cancelled in the US FY13 defence budget, while others have speculated that the project may be deferred several years or even cancelled altogether in order to bolster the government’s chances of returning a budget surplus in 2012/13. Either way, few give the C295 much chance despite the MRTT ‘sweetener’ offered by Airbus.

9 Comments

  • jimmy latsos

    says:

    Trust Airbus Military to dangle a bigger carrot to Australia!.Although I do believe that the C27-j is far better than the C295,I must admit that an extra KC-30A plus 10 C295’s and saving $300million dollars over the the complete purchase of the Spartans sounds very good, not to mention that A330 MRTT’S orderd by other countries are to be converted in Brisbane which would be great for the Queensland economy and Australia as whole sounds like win win to me !.Can any one out there really shoot any holes in Airbus Military’s proposal??.

  • Chris

    says:

    But it all depends on Airbus successfully selling more MRTTs to new customers who then agree to their a/c being converted in Australia.

  • ron

    says:

    I personally don’t think Airbus would have too much trouble selling more MRTTs. The only western alternative will be the yet-to-exist, born-again Boeing 767, & if the recent history of developing & building new hi-tech aircraft tells us anything, it’s that the new Boeing will be some years off & probably some years late. Clearly it suks to be the US airforce right now. The A330-200 MRTT now has the “off the shelf” advantage that the C-17 & Team Romeo had. And good luck to them.

  • Jimmy – the only holes I can see – and they’re big holes – is the government’s reluctance to find any supplemental funding the year before they want to return to surplus, especially with uncertainties hanging over the resources and carbon taxes.

    I think RAAF would rather get the Growler through ( which is also supplemental) and not look a gift horse in the mouth by asking for more.

    Cheers

    Andrew McLaughlin

  • RH Hastings

    says:

    How many possible MRTT sales are there after the six for India? Most tanker requirements are quite small in comparison to the USAF fleet. And among the bigger orders are the UK fleet leased by EADS and others to the RAF.

    Do the 10 C295’s and one more MRTT meet RAAF requirements regardless of the $300M savings?

  • JT

    says:

    Does the RAAF specifically need a C27J. No. It needs a light intra theatre transporter. As a majority of the loads are broken down and rebuilt throughout the supply chain out of necessity, this argument is somewhat floored when it comes to a justification between the two frames. Bring on the airbus solution, produce the 6 KC30 solution which will extend the life of type of the aircraft (Re: C17 argument), and inject the savings back into the defence budget for the support equipment the RAAF so desperately needs, whilst maintaining and potentially enhancing the Aust aircraft engineering capabilty. An all up win win I would have thought.

  • NW

    says:

    How can the Australian government let this one go through to the keeper? Yes they probably do need another MRTT refueller – but this is one that couldbe specified to double as a VIP transport and with a reinforced cargo deck.The C-295 is perfect as a replacement for the Caribou. A small light transport to cater for the battlefield needs of the Army. Not as te RAAF are being pressured into as a cheapskate replacement for a Hercules squadron.

  • KB

    says:

    The military dont want the C-295 or a 6th MRTT. The Spartan is what they favour, and its parts are interchangeable with the RAAFs C130’s. Theres an overall future cost saving surley. Additionally 5 MRTTs is more than enough and more than we have ever had for that specific role at any one time.

    This is beginning to sound like Eurocopter back in the 80s, you dont buy our Squirrels we wont give you a good deal on the Mirages. Quit trying to slot Australia in to something they dont want!

  • gary

    says:

    The best part of that deal from Airbus is that the 6th one is already built ,as it was made to show off to the U.S Airforce when Airbus was bidding for the U.S tanker competition.I think it was in last months AA magazine that i seen it.

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