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The Airbus A400M: the alternatives? Kein! (case)

(BRUXELLES2) The Airbus 400M is both a strategic and tactical aircraft, which is difficult to compare.

The only potential competitor is (was) the Ukrainian aircraft, the Antonov 70

But the first mass production is only scheduled for 2011, with ramp-up from 2013 to 2022. And many technical and commercial incidents have marked its production: collision in flight of the first prototype in 1995, forced landing of the second prototype in 2001, abandonment of the program by the Russians (who had ordered 164 planes).

The only "available" alternative is therefore to have a mixed fleet: strategic (composed for example of Boeing C-17 or Antonov An 124, or even the future Airbus A330-220 multirole aircraft) and tactical (Lockheed C-130J) . Other tactical aircraft also exist on the market (Casa 235 or Casa 295, Alienia C-27J…) but they have a much more limited payload capacity – at least for equipment.

The mixed solution has an advantage

Both the Antonov An 124 and the C-17 can transport heavier or bulky equipment (tanks). But a serious disadvantage: it obliges to maintain two different types of planes, to train pilots on two planes and, especially, in operations obliges with a rupture of load (transfer of a plane or another which obliges to have personnel , material and time available). The purchase price of this type of equipment is not negligible either and roughly amounts to the price of the Airbus A400M for aircraft of older design. In the long term, it is also more expensive and less operational.

Keine Alternative?

Finally, and this is not the least of the issues, behind the operational side, looms the industrial strategic issue and the political issue. A new aircraft allows you to position yourself and stay on the market, to invest in research and technology, which can be used for other programs, to have decision-making weight on the program. By purchasing an existing device, this weight is reduced and the investment is partly made at " bleed funds ". It is also not for nothing that when questioned by its parliamentarians on the existence of an alternative solution, the German government replied: “ No " (any).

(photo: Wikipedia – the Antonov 70)

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).