Nov 12, 2016
French Defense Minister blamed Airbus for failing to deliver operational A400Ms.
“The problem is the company,” Le Drian told the defense committee of the lower house National Assembly on Nov. 2, the official minutes of which were recently released. “Today, the A400Ms delivered are not operational – and the problem does not concern just France: that is the case everywhere.
“As this meeting is public, perhaps my remarks will reach Mr. Enders. It can be said that the talks I have with the Airbus executives are … lively.”
Tom Enders is chief executive of Airbus group. The Air Force is flying the A400M in its basic version as a cargo plane into secure airbases.
“I have asked for a plan to catch up, both for the aircraft’s capabilities and delivery rate,” Le Drian told members of parliament. The delivery delays were unacceptable and the lack of capabilities for parachute drops, self defense and landing on short runways caused concern.
The ministry has reached an agreement for 2016, he said. “I hope it will be upheld,” he said. “In any case, we have an extremely close dialog with the company.”
France had ordered four Hercules C-130J transport planes to meet urgent requirements and tackle the problems of an aging fleet, but that purchase had not been planned at the outset, he said.
The French Air Force expects to receive by the end of the year six A400Ms of the “tactical” version, Air Chief of Staff Gen. André Lanata told the French Senate Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Forces Committee on Oct. 12. Parachute drops are key to that tactical model, he said.
A tactical model is equipped with a protected cabin and a self-defense system to protect the aircrew and aircraft when flying over hostile zones.
“We expect the company concerned to make every single effort to allow us to undertake our very many operational commitments,” Lanata said.
The A400M engine is now the major concern for the service, as the motors require an inspection every 80 hours, an unsustainable rate leading to fleet availability shortages, he said.
An interim solution to the engine will be delivered between now and Spring 2017 until a permanent remedy is ready, which will make the situation manageable – which it is not right now, he said.
Airbus D&S declined comment on the issue.
Of the six tactical aircraft, three will be new units and three will be retrofits of the A400M aircraft already in service with the Air Force. The service flies eight of these as cargo lifters into secure areas.