A400M Common Sustainment: A Step Forward


2016-12-17 The A400M is a new fleet asset for a number of Air Forces.

Keeping the aircraft with a common baseline configuration will be crucial to providing for the kind of common sustainment options which can provide for global fleet operational capabilities.

A step in this direction was reached by the recent signing by France, the UK and Spain of a global support service contract.

According to an Airbus Defence and Space press release dated December 7, 2016:

Airbus Defence and Space has signed a long-term Global Support Service contract for the A400M new generation airlifter with the UK, France and Spain.

The new agreement, effective 1 December, runs as a first step for two years and follows previously signed contracts which provided support for France and UK in their early years of operation of the A400M. It additionally forms the basis of support for Spain which accepted its first aircraft on 1 December.

MSN 24, the 7th RAF A400M. Credit: Airbus Defence and Space
MSN 24, the 7th RAF A400M. Credit: Airbus Defence and Space

This first phase of the agreement paves the way for any other OCCAR nation to join later and benefit from this package as well as additional new services currently under development.

Head of Military Aircraft Services Stephan Miegel said: “The contracts that were put in place to see the A400M into initial service have worked well, but this next stage will provide a sophisticated and highly integrated support service that will further free operators to focus on their mission, knowing that they can rely on robust support for the years ahead. We would encourage other A400M operators to take advantage of these arrangements which we are convinced have the potential to let them operate the aircraft to its maximum capability.”

Under the new arrangement, the three nations will benefit from a spares pool, technical and engineering support, maintenance and flight operations services.

Customer nations will see numerous benefits from the sharing of these resources and assets in a common central services operation including substantial cost savings, increased efficiency of service, and greater flexibility to meet their specific operational requirements.

The contract was awarded by the UK’s Defence Equipment & Support Agency (DE&S), the French Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) and Spain’s Direccion General de Armamento y Material (DGAM) through the OCCAR international programme management organization.

During a visit to the Bricy air base, the squadron leadership provided insights with regard to the French approach to the A400M and the squadron leader highlighted the importance in his view of the inherent upgradeability of the aircraft associated with its software systems as well as the promise of digital maintenance for shaping a new approach to fleet management.

In that interview, Lt. Col. Paillard highlighted the importance of keeping the aircraft common among the A400M users to get the maximum impact from the aircraft operating as a fleet.

“We do not want to end up like the Transall which was a common French and German aircraft but at the end became completely different aircraft.”



A key potential for leveraging commonality is derived from the digital nature of the aircraft.

The sensors onboard the aircraft and the various software upgradeable systems provide an inherent potential for the A400M to provide for inherent upgradeability and serviceability across the fleet.

Put in other terms, the digital nature of the aircraft is part of every A400M which enters the combat fleet and can provide a significant advantage over legacy aircraft.

The A400M as a Digital Aircraft: Crafting a 21st Century Baseline