Air Transportation: A400M Stumbles To The Finish Line


January 13, 2009: The new AirBus military transport, the A400M will have its first flight this year, and will begin deliveries within two years. Or so goes the latest plan. After 25 years of development, AirBus has had one problem after another getting the A400M into service. European Union (EU) members have over 150 of the new transports on order, but dozens of sales have been lost because of the delay.

Many NATO members already possess similar C-130s. While the C-130 can haul 20 tons, the A400M can haul 37 tons. The A400M was supposed to begin service this year, and many potential customers are getting tired of waiting. The latest delays included coordination problems between the French and Spanish factories that are crucial to the construction of the first A400Ms. Then there were more engine problems.

The A400M has a top speed of 779 kilometers per hour, a range of 7,500 kilometers, and normally carries about 27 tons. The nearest competitor is the American C-130. The most common version is the C-130H. It has a range of 8,368 kilometers, a top speed of 601 kilometers per hour, and can carry up to 18 tons of cargo, 92 troops, or 64 paratroopers. The latest version, the C-130J, has a top speed of 644 kilometers, 40 percent more range than the C130H, and can carry 20 tons of cargo. The C-130 has been in service for over half a century, and is used by more than 50 countries. The largest, and most recent, model, the C-130J-30, is comparable to the A400M in terms of personnel carried (128 passengers or 92 paratroopers, versus 120 passengers for the A400M).

AirBus hopes to replace the C-130 in many parts of the world. If the U.S. shuts down production of the larger C-17, the A400M will benefit from that as well. The only direct competitor of the C-17 is the Russian Il-76, which is now back in production. But for many customers, the A400M is a better choice than the Il-76, whose main advantage is longer range.





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