An Update on the A400M Program


06/16/2011: Cédric Gautier, head of the A400M program, provided an update on the program at the Airbus Trade Media event in mid-May 2011.

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Photo Credit: Airbus Military

Gautier started by providing an overview on the aircraft itself.  He argued that this is “a new modern aircraft with modern design, fits the character of this century.” He then explained that the program meets three objectives for its military customers: strategic, tactical and tanking. “In terms of strategic capability, the aircraft is flying higher, faster, and further than its closest competitor. The capabilities of the loads are huge.  The capability is twice with respect to our most direct competitors. In terms of tactical objectives, the aircraft is able to make routine low-level flights and to perform short and soft-landing and takeoff on unprepared runways.

“The aircraft is able to perform rapid unloading and loading of the aircraft; and is able also to perform humanitarian missions, rescue missions, and military transportation missions across the spectrum of operations. The aircraft is of modern design with very good survivability capabilities.”And the last main mission is tanking.  “It is able to fuel fighters, other large aircraft and even helicopters.”

He indicated that the aircraft has been on track from a program perspective over the past two years.  He indicated as well that flight simulator would arrive at about the time the first production aircraft will be in final phases of preparation for the first customer. Gautier indicated, “We are just achieved more than 500 flight tests with more than 1,600 flight test hours.”

MSN-6, the first serial production aircraft, will be tested later this year and then MSN-7, the first aircraft to be delivered to the French air force will be built shortly thereafter. “With regard to MSN-6, all the components, mechanical assembly, have been made on the station 40 for February this year, and now we are in station 35 for the system testing.  This should be complete by the end of May. The start of final assembly, as I said, will be made this year, and with the first flight, middle of next year at the latest, third quarter of 2012.  And not only the MSN-7, because now in Filton we are starting the assembly of the MSN-8.”

He underscored that the plan was to deliver the first planes to the French Air Force in early 2013 followed by deliveries to the Turkish Air Force that year.  The year after deliveries are scheduled for the British Air Force, German Air Force, and Malaysian Air Force, and the year after that or 2015 for the Spanish Air Force.