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Berlin wonders about the future of the Airbus A400M. London too!

(B2) This is the Spiegel who affirms it. Taking this from information coming from the German Ministry of Defense. Berlin is reportedly considering interrupting its participation in the Airbus A400M program. More exactly, "If Airbus does not quickly indicate when and how it will be able to resolve the (technical) problems, the head of the German acquisition programs, Rudiger Wolf, could advise, at the appropriate time, to the Minister of Defense Franz Josef Jung, to terminate the contract”, underlines the newspaper (1).

A completely plausible solution, at least legally. Withdrawal from the program was in fact not possible until now (unless you had to pay a significant penalty – which was enough to silence any desire to leave the program). From April, this will become possible, since the contract signed between OCCAR – for the participating States – and the manufacturer EADS allows the contract to be terminated and the sums to be recovered in the event of a 14-month delay on the first flight. . The first flight should have taken place in January 2008. And OCCAR does not expect a first flight before summer 2009.

A threat more than a reality. In April 2009, a window will therefore be open. Window into which the German Minister of Defense could rush, according to our German colleagues... But I have some doubts about the possibility of taking action, for at least three reasons:
philosophical. Until recently, the German government considered, before the Bundestag, that it was impossible to revise this contract in one direction or another. Whether for some
specifications or to waive compensation, “the government is not prepared to waive its contractual right” replied the Ministry. In this, Germany had the principle of saying “the whole contract, nothing but the contract” or as the Latin formula goes: “pacta sunt servanda".
operational, abandoning the program means finding another solution. And quickly! There are not 36000 on the market but one: the good old C130 revamped in its latest version, the J. But these machines also have a price. To the question asked by a parliamentarian on an interim solution, the Ministry of Defense responded “Keine”. It's clear…
social and economic. According to the German government itself, around 10 jobs depend on this program: 000 direct jobs and 3 indirect jobs. The situation is perhaps not ideal for putting these people into unemployment, even partial unemployment... Especially a few months before the general elections (which are being held in September)!

A round of negotiation then? Why this German bloodbath, or this little acerbic flight from the defense administration? No doubt because it involves taking the German position up a notch in the negotiations initiated between the industrialist, the Member States and OCCAR. While the latter must submit an evaluation of the program and the solutions, it is a question of setting the record straight, by raising a dissuasive threat, more worthy of the nuclear threat, in order to prevent certain solutions which do not do not like in Berlin are being worked out: in particular a waiver of late payment compensation (as requested by the French) or an increase in the price (as requested by EADS).

Another warning shot from London. Far more significant seems to me to be the warning shot coming from London, more precisely from the defense committee of the House of Commons which, in its traditional report on military equipment, is seriously concerned about the delay in the program. British MPs are wondering in particular whether it would not be preferable “toabandon (the program) and make (other) decisions to purchase or lease other aircraft so as not to allow a capacity deficit in air transport to be created”. With the British suffering today from a critical air capacity, the question is much more consequential than for the Germans – even if the House of Commons is usually harsh on all programs, including British ones…


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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