A400M Delay Forces RAF To Seek Stopgap
(NSI News Source Info) London - September 4, 2008:The United Kingdom is considering contingency options to cover the risk of an increasing capability gap in tactical airlift as Airbus Military partner nations wait to find out the actual extent of delays to the A400M tactical military airlifter.
Airbus and the European partner nations are trying to determine "what is a realistic delivery time for the aircraft," according to Air Marshal Barry Thornton, chief of material (air) within Britain's Defense Equipment and Support organization.
"We are already looking at what we might do", says Thornton. He suggests options include further extending the life of some of the Royal Air Force's C-130K Hercules, now due out of service in 2012, or a possible lease deal.
The United Kingdom's tactical and strategic airlift capacity continues to be stretched by the ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
European defense management agency Occar and Airbus officials are due to meet shortly to try to determine a delivery schedule for the aircraft, according to Thornton.
The A400M first-flight test program continues to slip later, with the engine test-bed aircraft, a modified C-130 now expected no earlier than next month. The TP400M engine for the A400M was originally due to be flown on the C-130 test aircraft at the end of 2006 or the beginning of 2007. Around 50 flight hours are meant to be accumulated on the engine using the test aircraft prior to the A400M first flight.
The A400M was due to be flown in November 2007, but this target has had to be repeatedly re-scheduled as snags delayed the program. The most recent target date was next month, but this will now also be missed. TP400 qualification testing was due to be completed in January 2009, based on a November 2007 first flight. As well as the engine hold-up, there are also issues with some of the mission systems, according to industry sources close to the program.
The RAF is notionally now due to see the A400M enter service in 2011.