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SAAF expresses concern over A400M Loadmaster delays

Written by defenceWeb editor Leon Engelbrecht
Published with consent from defenceWeb


A400M



The Chief of the South African Air Force says he is concerned about reports that Airbus’ military transport programme is facing delay and adds he hopes the A400M Loadmaster programme can be brought back on track.
SA was previously scheduled to receive eight of the aircraft at a cost of R7.4 billion from next year.

Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano adds that the air force is closely watching the position of the European defence acquisition authority OCCAR that is representing a number of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air forces.

Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders earlier this month said says the current organisational and contractual structure of the A400M programme was a "recipe for disaster".

"We want to continue the programme, but we want to continue it in a way that ensures success for the customers and success for the industry.”

Enders said he wanted to sit down OCCAR “to discuss the programme schedule along with changes to other areas of the contract including in particular certain technical characteristics…”

He adds that deliveries will now be at least three years late.

Gagiano says Enders’ comments make it “clear that Airbus Military is advocating a new approach to recover from the effects of continued slippage on the program and non-achievement of project milestones.

“For Airbus it is important that an acceptable solution to their predicament is found, since their customers have contractual recourse if milestones are not achieved,” the SAAF chief adds. Airbus currently has 192 A400M orders in hand – 180 from OCCAR, eight from SA and four from Malaysia.

“As for all the nations involved in this program, we are concerned that the envisaged slippage on the program will overtax an already strained air transport capability,” Gagiano says.

“OCCAR and Airbus Military are engaged in discussions to establish the way forward. The RSA will evaluate the position OCCAR (as the acquisition agency of the leading nations) is going to take. Based on this, an option to the best advantage of the Defence Force will be formulated.”

In another development, Reuters reports Airbus parent EADS as denying it plans to cancel the programme. “There is no discussion within EADS about a scenario to withdraw from the A400M programme, contrary to what has been circulated in the press," the group said Friday.

Meanwhile Aerosud programme director Rob Jonkers says the delay will impact suppliers to the programme, including his Centurion-based business.

“Yes, there is fallout; and it affects the entire industry that is involved…” He adds that “we do not however have a clear picture yet on how this will affect us.”

Jonkers says the aircraft is still in its development phase with Aerosud “still supplying components for the prototypes and complete development for the various versions”.

“Also most of our packages are components that are fitted later in the build, thus we potentially will only see the effects later, and we are currently in negotiation with the A400 team to re-allocate milestones and contractual deliverables.

“For now production is on hold till further notice”, Jonkers said.

Denel Saab Aerostructures (DSA) chief executive officer Lana Kinley says her company has two work packages - the Wing to Fuselage Fairing and the Top Shell. “We have been expecting the delays for some time and reduced our business forecasts accordingly.”

Denel group executive: technical Maj Gen Otto Schьr (Ret) last September told Engineering News that DSA has had to redesign some of the components it was producing for the A400M “owing to a number of critical factors affecting the basic design”.

Schьr, previously a senior official in the Department of Defence’s Defence Materiel Division, admitted the DSA A400M programme “has not been without problems.”

“But the delays with the aircraft’s engines have reduced the pressures on us, as well as on all other contributors to the programme,” he told the engineering publication.

A fundamental difficulty was that the weight of the A400M had substantially increased, meaning that the wing-fuselage fairings that were originally “meant to be just fairings” have become load-bearing structures, “thus necessitating significant redesign,” he explains. “And, as a risk-bearing partner, DSA has had to bear the cost of this redesign”.

There have been media claims that the A400M is as much as 12mt overweight and 3mt short of its designed-for 37mt carrying capacity.

 

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