Air Transportation: April 12, 2002

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Britain, France, and other A400M project countries are scrambling to figure out how to keep the program intact. The problem is that Germany originally put in for 73 aircraft, but the money provided by its parliament covers only 40. The German government has said it is sure it can get parliament to provide the rest of the money in future years, but there is much doubt that this will happen. The Germans want to launch the program with their purchase of 40 aircraft and add the others later, but their partners want Germany to agree that if it doesn't buy the other 33, it will be the sole country responsible for any increased costs. The unit price is based on 196 aircraft; deducting Germany's 33 unfunded aircraft would raise the price by 5%, or more, and would make the A400M economically unviable, leaving the Europeans to buy a US aircraft and lose much of their domestic aircraft industry. The German parliament has refused to agree to the penalty clause, saying that there would be no way to prove what portion of the price increase, if any, was Germany's fault. Germany and France are also at odds over the Eurocopter Tiger combat helicopter. The first production aircraft has just been rolled out of the factory (on 22 March). The original plans called for Germany and France to each buy over 200 aircraft, but the Cold War is over and the need for anti-tank helicopters has been reduced. Germany and France have each ordered only 80 multi-role helicopters (which can carry anti-tank missiles, guns, rockets, or air-to-air missiles and are better suited to peacekeeping and less optimal for anti-tank warfare). Germany says it may buy 30 more but would stop at 110; France has made no clear decision on buying more than 80.--Stephen V Cole

 


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