A400M, Should We Re-Think The Procurement?

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A CGI of the A400M. Airbus Military photo

KUALA LUMPUR: The on-and off again Airbus A400M has hit another wall yet again. This time around Airbus Military (see release below) is asking the launch nations to bear with them yet again. Basically they are asking for a new round delays which will see our first A400M see service, most probably in the year 2020.

However with our propensity to defer the defence budget whenever an economic crunch comes around, the first A400M may well see service in the year 2030! While Malaysian Defence understands that there is an RM1 billion offset agreement which came from the RM2 billion deal for the four A400M it is unbecoming to let the Armed Forces be beholden to what is basically a private industrial deal. Furthermore with AirAsia buying more Airbuses than any one else, why could’nt the A400M offset deal be renegotiated if we decide to ditch the European Hercules.

The uncertainties with the A400M must be playing havoc with the Armed Forces planners especially with the budget crunch. How could they draw up a viable long term strategic air transport capabilities with such crap hanging over their heads? More over they also need to think over the planned changes of the air lifter capabilities and whether four aircraft is enough to cover our military and political needs. Furthermore, there is a big chance we may have to pay more than what was originally envisaged.

The European nations can afford to wait for the A400M, they are already pooling resources to buy C-17s and individually they are also buying the J-version of the Hercules while we have to rely on our mix fleet of Hercules (15?) and CN-235s (8) for all sundry and purposes.

Malaysian Defence believes its time to re-think about the A400M especially when other essential things for the Armed Forces from APCs to gun optics have been deferred due to the budget crunch.

Release from Airbus Military.

AIRBUS MILITARY and EADS propose a new approach for the A400M Programme

Airbus Military and EADS have proposed a new programme approach for the A400M to the Launch Nations, through OCCAR, with the aim to find a way forward for this programme.

Airbus Military and EADS want to discuss the programme schedule along with changes to other areas of the contract including in particular certain technical characteristics of this first-class military aircraft.

Airbus Military suggests to resume series production only once adequate maturity is reached, based on flight test results. With this proposed new approach, the first delivery of the A400M would then occur around three years after first flight.

Airbus Military is still working with the engine consortium to firm up a date for the first flight.

Airbus Military and EADS will only be able to reliably determine all financial implications once a committed industrial plan, including the availability of systems, is fully stabilized and once OCCAR’s position on the proposal is known.

This proposed new approach will not compromise the ultimate qualities and the exceptional characteristics of the airplane, with the most advanced logistic and tactical capabilities that will be delivered to the armed forces and will make A400M a unique airplane in its category.

–Malaysian Defence

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10 Comments

  1. Marhalim, like us, the Europeans cannot afford to wait for the A400. Collectively buying a number of C-17s will help when it comes to out of area/expeditionary operations, but the A400 is meant to be their main transport, not only to replace legacy C-130s and C-160s, but also intended to bridge the gap between the C-130 and the C-17. Whilst, the C-17 would solve many problems for the Europeans, the high purchase and operating costs is a major obstacle. Incidently, with regards to the joint C-17 buy, it has been reported that US insistance on a state of the art self-defensive suit has caused a slight delay, as it means the Europeans will have to allocate more money.

    As our requirements differ very much from the US and Europeans, I believe the C-130 ‘J’ would suit our needs. Granted, its not cheap and has less payload and range than the A400, but at least its a programme that is up and running and not one hampered by technical delays and cost overuns.

  2. I’ve once read in Flight International Magazine sometime before the agreement to buy A-400 was inked between GOM and Airbus that AIROD was trying to proposed an upgrade package for our C-130 fleet which include glass cockpit and modernise avionic. I think maybe it’s the time again to consider such proposal but with more productive and sensible manner and consideration.

    After all, we don’t want it to be another hanging exercise much like the F-5 upgrade program which as to now, nobody knows the current development of it.

    Marhalim: We need to sort out Airod and the whole defence industry first before embarking on any AC upgrading exercise. That was the main reason I was not so keen of a Nuri SLEP/ upgrading programme, I was more worried that we end up paying for a leg and an arm for a limited number of modernised helos. The F-5 programme was a National Interest project, nothing more although RMAF managed to continue supporting the two RF-5E Tigereye Recon bird until now.

    On the A400M, the latest word is that Germany, the main backer of the programme has refused to pay more for the programme. Its getting interesting, the A400M may well become the biggest military programme casualty of the economic crisis. We need to act quickly to protect our rights though small compared to the others.

  3. maybe one way to get more funding for defense is to create a good reason why it is important to give a lot of funds to defense.

    singapore always says it is to deter some aggressor/neighbor from attacking
    US always says it’s to fight global terrorism, spreading democracy and maintaining global domination. before that it’s was cold war. before that it’s fascism.
    Israel always says it’s for their right to exists. and to protect them from terrorist (hamas)

    what’s malaysia’s excuse to get a big fat defense budget?

    i understand money is not the solution for everything, but it can help

    Marhalim: Some will disagree with you saying that we are not spending enough!

  4. What can I say, to meet an immediate operational need, we ordered an aircraft which has yet to fly. Now the aircraft is delayed. Smart move Mindef!

    Anyway, this 2005 article shed some background on what could have been a better (and cheaper) option.

    http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/179003/malaysia_puts_c130_upgrades_on_hold/

    Marhalim: The decision to go for the A400M even though it was a paper airplane was made by the Old Man, Mindef just went along…

  5. Marhalim,

    Some photos were released a while ago, showing the F-5Fs with a new paintjob. In an interview about a year ago, with the RMAF chief, it was also mentioned that the 2 F-5Fs were ‘upgraded’. Do you know anything about the ‘upgrade’? Intrestingly, the 2 RMAF F-5Bs were sold to Thailand in the early 80’s.

    As for AIROD, they lost the USAF C-130 contract recently to Singapore.

    marhalim: Yes, I am intimately aware of the F5 upgrade programme, I was nearly sued for libel when I was still a reporter with The Malay Mail for reporting on the story. The two seaters were upgraded as was announced during Lima 2005. The contract was given to LARDAC. The whole project has gone haywire and the foreign partner (which had no experience in doing upgrades) with the air force, supposedly finished the job. LARDAC is suing the Govt for breach of contract. I am not certain of the status of the Fs now as only one Tigereye was displayed during Lima 07. No Tigers were displayed during the RMAF open day last year. There was a tender in 2006/2007 for the disposal of the Tigers but I am not sure whether MINDEF had gone through with the sale.

    Airod recently got the deal to fix a derelict Hercules which crashed in the Libyan desert in the early 80s, from an American firm. What can I say about Airod? Its people are competent but the top…..(libel alert!). Anyways, during DSA 06 Lockheed Martin received a long term contract for the maintainance for five Hercules we bought in 1995, however, I believed that the job is being done at Airod.

  6. The foreign partner was Caledonian Systems from Aberdeen right? I’m surprised they finished the job, but I would be surprised if the ‘upgrade’ included a digital cockpit. But then again, even the Su-30MKMs don’t have a fully digital cockpit.

    Marhalim: Right, the job I am told was done by the air force themselves in the end, with another company I am not really sure who, some say it was Airod and some say it was Northrop. The mock-up I saw at Lima 2005 was fully digital, but I have no idea whether it was the same thing that end up in the Tigers.

  7. Assalamualaikum

    Dear Azlan,

    Su 30 MKM is a full digital cockpit.

    As for the F-5 so called upgrade, proposed by some interested party was initially replacing the instrumentation with LCD panel. Unfortunately this people at that time has no Level 3 drawing and no previous experience on the F-5. The RMAF for reason cannot mention in public gave the go ahead for this contractor to undertake the job bypassing and circumvent the RMAF Engineering Orders and Directives and the F-5 Tactical Coordinating Group supported by the Security Assistance Office USA.

    And you know what happened they started cutting wires and tinker with the instrumentation and lo and behold the Engine parameters on the aircraft EGT, NPI RPM VEN goes haywire…..Macaman nak lepas….Tak tahu nak buat kerja lama lama harap Air Force technician juga tolong adjus. Itu adjust instrument kat aircraft bukannya betul punya reading of the instrumentation iaw with calibrated test instruments. Gila betul.

  8. The current situation faced by RMAF with this issue is much siilar to what the PMB and MAS was facing when the Airbus announced that they’re facing delay for A380 delivery. I’m not quite sure with current development of A380 delivery schedule but I think that the RMAF could learn from mistake ( or setback..whatever we wish to call) made by the MAS.

    Airbus may have offered a good deal of offset to our industry but yet the delays of these two new aircraft from the very same manufacturer have cause the RMAF and MAS a very big headache for them to deal with.

  9. I must add that during the A400M procurement contract signing in LIMA 2005, Najib was quoted as saying the Hercules will be operated as along as it was economically possible. Meaning at that time there was no plans to extend the life of Hercules fleet. In between then and now, RMAF had converted two more Hercules as tankers. How the latest events had changed that plans is not yet confirmed.

  10. From AFP

    By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
    Published: 12 Jan 2009

    BERLIN – The Airbus A400 military transport plane is too heavy and does not deliver on performance, the Financial Times Deutschl and newspaper reported on Jan. 12.

    The FTD cited sources which said the current version of the A400M can carry only 29-30 tons of material, instead of an expected 32 tons, and that it is itself 12 tons overweight.

    The European Aeronautic Defence Space Company, Airbus’ parent company, will have to completely revise its plans, the newspaper said.

    EADS acknowledged recently that the first delivery of an A400M would be delayed by three years, but did not give a precise date.

    A total of 180 of the aircraft have been ordered so far for 20 billion euros ($26.8 billion) by OCCAR, the European organization for military cooperation that represents seven countries.

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