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Interview

The Last A400M for the TurAF Will Be Delivered in 2022!

Defence Turkey talked to Mr. José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS, Airbus Defence and Space Vice President & Head of Product Marketing on the status of the A400M Program and the deliveries to Turkish Air Force (TurAF)

Issue 92

Defence Turkey: How would you best describe the current status of the A400M Program, which was initially considered as Airbus’ strategic move into the military transport aircraft sector but in time has turned into a headache due to industrial problems that hampered the program and caused the company to pay heavy penalties for both the capability shortfalls and the delays to resolve them? Have you resolved the industrial problems including the flaw discovered in the propeller driving power gearbox of the TP400-D6 engine?

José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS: On June 14th we announced the Global Re-baselining of the Program. We are extremely grateful to the Customer Nations and OCCAR for their continued support and the constructive discussions on this complex subject matter, achieving a decisive de-risk of the A400M Program that will ensure its present and future as the air forces backbone for strategic airlift for the decades to come. 

Despite the past industrial issues suffered on the A400M the situation has significantly changed in the last years. On the industrial side, we have been able to stabilize production delivering what we promised to our customers. It is of great importance to say that our flight test campaigns are giving excellent results, and with regards capabilities the A400M is being a game changer for our customer. With 81 aircraft in service, our customer nations are deploying the aircraft all over the world on many different missions, and that is a huge satisfaction for us. 

Defence Turkey: Could you please comment on the major contractual milestones achieved so far under the A400M Program? How many A400Ms have been manufactured so far and how many of them were handed over? How many flight hours have been accumulated with the delivered A400Ms?

José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS: Until now we have delivered 81 aircraft to six nations and in 2020, we will deliver the first aircraft to Belgium and Luxembourg. With regards flight hours, the global fleet has already achieved more than 53,000 FH. 

Defence Turkey: Total firm orders for the A400M still stand at 174 aircraft and despite the aircraft’s uncontested capabilities, no additional order has been booked so far. Fernando ALONSO, Head of Airbus Military Aircraft, said in July 2018 that six firm offers had been submitted to prospective customers, two of which were under negotiation at the time, and one of which he hoped to conclude by the end of the year. When do you expect to conclude your negotiations with potential export customers and to announce first export order (after Malaysia) for the A400M?

José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS: The recent signature of the new agreement with our customer nations has settled the A400M towards a much clearer scenario for finalizing the capability development and at the same allowing more time for export sales. 

These elements are the foundation for the next phase of the A400M Program, which is to complement the Launch Nations aircraft with export sales. 

The capabilities that the A400M will provide on the export market will put the Air Forces ahead of the rest and will enable them to perform any kind of tactical or logistic mission they might need, as well as other more specific missions such as Air to Air Refueling. 

At this moment we are in dialogue indeed with various prospective customers but will not give details with regards to the specific status. 

Defence Turkey: Are there any military transport aircraft currently available that can match the A400M? Do you think Embraer’s KC-390’s will become a strong competitor for the A400M in the military airlift market during next 5 to 10 years? 

José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS: I don’t see a real threat as the A400M and the KC-390 are different aircraft. The A400M is unique on the market, because it’s the only aircraft able to cover all current and future needs for heavy strategic as well as tactical transport. 

The A400M, thanks to its 37t payload and 4x4m cross-section, is able to transport the heavy and outsize loads (such as helicopters, cranes or excavators) that are too heavy or too big for legacy and future tactical aircraft. 

At the same time, its long range and high-speed cruise capability allows to reach destinations at long distances and, as fast as turbofan strategic aircraft.

But also, thanks to its turboprop engines, it retains the capability of operating from short and soft unpaved airstrips as legacy tactical aircraft; and it can be quickly reconfigured for air-to-air refueling missions, to give fuel to fast and slow receivers at their required altitude and speed.

Defence Turkey: The footprint of ADS in Turkey spans several decades of success, which started with the CN235-100M military transport aircraft of the Turkish Air Force (TurAF). Turkey is one of 8 original partner nations and the TurAF, which has 10 A400Ms on order, today enjoys a total of 7 A400Ms that make up a very important Strategic Air Lift capability for the country. Aircraft number 8 and number 9 are both expected to be delivered in the 2019 summer timeframe. Can you elaborate on the current status of TurAF’s 8th and 9th A400Ms, when do you expect to deliver them to TurAF? Can you elaborate on their configuration level? Batch 4 or Batch 5?

José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS: The 8th aircraft for the Turkish Air Force has been already delivered to the customer at our facilities in Seville, Spain, with a second aircraft also close to delivery. 

With regards configuration, the 8th aircraft has been delivered with the latest standard, including tactical capabilities. 

Defence Turkey: Can you elaborate on the delivery year of TurAF’s 10th and last A400M? Can you elaborate on the configuration level of this last A400M?  

José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS: The last A400M for the Turkish Air Force will be delivered in 2022. 

Defence Turkey: How many flight hours have been accumulated with TurAF A400M fleet since the first flight in April 2014?

José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS: Approximately 4,000 flight hours done in total performing all types of missions including personnel and cargo transfer. 

Defence Turkey: Can you elaborate on the availability rates of the TurAF A400Ms?

José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS: We should not give exact operative details that concern one of our customers, but we can state that the Turkish Air Force A400M fleet availability rates are among the highest of the A400M user nations.   

Defence Turkey: Considering the fact that the ageing C-160D Transall Aircraft would be put out of service from 2020 onwards, the TurAF is expected to order additional A400Ms or other transports aircraft in similar classes (i.e. AN-188) in order to fulfill the transport aircraft requirement that would emerge for the year 2020 and afterwards. Have you received any formal interest from Turkey to place an order for further A400Ms so far?

José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS: We can’t comment on behalf of our customers but considering the outstanding capabilities of the A400M and its ability to conduct a wide array of missions it would always be a good choice to further enlarge the A400M fleet.  

Defence Turkey: The combat-proven A330 MRTT has been ordered by 12 nations which have now placed firm orders for 60 aircraft, of which 35 have been delivered. Entered service in 1995 the KC-135R Stratotanker fleet of the TurAF is going out of date day by day and metal fatigue is seen on some aircraft. Thus, the TurAF is planning to replace them with a new generation tanker aircraft (A330 MRTT and KC-46A Pegasus). Have you performed any discussion or delivered any briefing to the TurAF and/or SSB on A330 MRTT so far?

José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS: Being the benchmark in the global market, obviously we think the A330 MRTT could also be a perfect asset for the Turkish Air Force. The aircraft represents a huge leap from previous generation tankers, and provides more fuel, more cargo and more passenger transport capabilities than any other competitor. In addition to the pure Air to Air refueling, as part of our Smart MRTT approach we are further expanding the A330 MRTT capabilities towards enhancing connectivity and addressing new roles such as C2 and ISR, that could be also of strong interest. 

Defence Turkey: What can you tell us about the current status of Liaison & Utility Aircraft Project, covering the supply of 9 Liaison and General-Purpose Aircraft (GMU/GPA), 6 for the Turkish Land Forces and 3 for the Turkish Police. As one of the bidders of this tender ADS has offered its C295 aircraft to meet this requirement? When did you submit your proposal under the Liaison & Utility Aircraft Project and when do you expect announcement of the winner?  

José Luis de Miguel CORTÉS: As said before we don’t disclose detailed information on specific prospects, but the C295 through its versatility and flexibility could indeed be a great asset for the various Turkish services, also having in mind the already available experience with the CN235 and the delta capabilities the C295 provides.  

Defence Turkey: Mr. CORTÉS thank you for sparing your time for our readers?