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back to article Airbus: We'll cancel crap A400M unless we get more £££

Pan-European aerospace megacorp Airbus has hinted that it may close down its A400M military airlifter project, despite the fact that the first aircraft has finally flown. The manufacturer cannot make a profit on the plane if it is delivered at the agreed price, and is trying to get concessions from the customer nations. One of …

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Grenade

Economics of war

So basically we can put two C-17 into the ground and still have some carrying capacity versus burying one A400M?

Given that the military tend to get shot at quite a bit - and neither of these planes has much in the way of a defense ... a fleet of C-17's looks like the best bet.

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Economics of war

As lots of posters are going to point out, the C17 and A400 aren't the same, the A400 is a replacement C130 (short runways, in field use) the C17 is a larger airport-airport type.

It's like claiming that buying the army a 38ton truck is more cost effective than giving them 38x1ton jeeps.

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RTFA

the article is sugesting you replace the A400 with 2 diffrent devices a big C17 for the home to main base roll and smaller helicopters (I think) for the main base to remote base role that is like replacing a truck for the factory to your house with a train form the factory to the local statoion and then lots of delivery vans to the houses it seames better to me

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Should have bought it from BAe

Then however late and overpriced it was they would still have bought them.

Even if it meant just storing them in a hanger somewhere.

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Come on politicians - are you listening?

Hell no.

Theres a resession on, an election looming in which the ruling party looks like it is going to get decemated, if it does not decapitate it's self first, and you expect them to announce job cuts in marginal constituancies.

And if the facturies are not in marginal constituancies they will be after anouncing the job cuts.

The good news is after the election commonsence my rain for a couple of months.

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Anonymous Coward

job losses

Or we could retrain the people making the A400M wings so that they can support C17/C130 ? Save jobs and support costs?

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Sly
Megaphone

"Come on politicians - are you listening?"

bull horn right next to them and they'll say what was that again?

offer them a couple of million of the local currency and they will probably say ok.

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Paris Hilton

Just buy american for F*** sake

This is one massive cock up on airbuses part, why should we pay for it? i say cancel the order and get some planes from the yanks before everyone else does, that way we will be first in line!

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Bronze badge

Don't cancel...

Nah, don't cancel - let Airbus fold the project themselves and then hit them with non-delivery penalties.

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Euro-pork

The A400M - heck, some of us even recall when it was known as the Fictional Large Aircraft - is one huge heap of Euro-pork. The best thing for the UK would be for Airbus to bail on the project, MoD to recover liquidated damages on their non-delivery (assuming some genius managed to include them in the contract), and then to go shopping for a handful more C-17 and C-130J.

It's not very likely, is it?

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Megaphone

Politicians & listening

Two words that can never go together.

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Stop

Balance required

Lots of negative comments about the A400M :

"But a C-17, despite being cheaper, is much bigger and carries twice or more what an A400M can."

"Thus the real cost per plane would be £170m - more than twice what a vastly bigger and better C-17 costs."

BUT - what are the merits of the more modern A400M ? There must be some surely ?

"A new, upgraded Hercules C-130J costs $75m these days, according to those who should know: say £50m tops, at current rates. You could get at least three of them for the price of one A400M."

OK - but what is the cost of 3 pilots and associated running costs of 3 planes versus 1 ?

I'm sure Lewis is right and that talking the negotiating stance of the Germans is correct - after all, had Airbus made a budget miscalculation in their favour there is no chance any nation would be offered a rebate. However, there seems to be a bias, also in previous articles, in favour of US made aircraft and some excellent points in the article might be ignored (i.e. politicians will not listen) because of perceived anti British manufacturing bias.

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Anonymous Coward

Balance of tipping over

I haven't run the numbers, but IIRC a fighter pilot costs something like 2M UKP to train, and maybe 200k a year to retain, maybe about half that. Cargo pilots are somewhat cheaper -- commercial airliner training is in the vicinity of a tenth of that and salary may be a bit less. Or not. Of course you need a few more trained pilots on hand than aeroplanes. So amortized over the lifetime of the aeroplane (which is what, a score years or something?) and the useful career of the pilot, maybe ten percent, if that. This is massive handwaving but I think I'm in the right ballpark.

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FAIL

Economics of politics

Oh, the joys of being a member of the EU and, for political reasons, having to buy overpriced crap from our neighbours, rather that stuff that actually works...

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FAIL

wah wah wah we won't make a profit

The problem is that the EU continues to subsidise Airbus to this extent. In any other business (well, most normal ones) if a supplier screws up and then says 'we want more money, we won't make a profit', the usual response is "ah boo hoo, don't screw it up next time". With Airbus, the EU's standard response is 'OK, here's more cash, please make a profit'. Where's the business, exactly?

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Flame

RE: wah wah wah we won't make a profit

So what you are saying is that all of the government IT projects that overspend, don't actually overspend?

They all cost exactly what they were supposed to, and the suppliers DON'T get any more money?

Normally, the reason that government projects overspend, is the requirements are normally too streaching, and most often than not constantly change over the life of the project. One project I worked on died as a result; They added so much stuff to a drone, it needed bigger and bigger wings to lift it all, then it needed a bigger engine and again bigger wings. Then it couldn't land the right-way up because of new sensors underneath... and then death

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Alien

Just do it

I may be a yank but I will comment on what I have seen. I have worked on C130E/H models. The later H's were a dream maintenance was fairly easy and the great thing being they required almost no training from the E models. The J's have a few differences but they are basically the same plane. For that alone you will save tons of money on maintenance training and more so because there are already some in the british fleet. C-17s I have been told by collegues are equally reliable and modern. I dont see how any beancounter could take a known platform such as the C-17 and C130Js and justify that against an unknown airframe with unknown problems requiring a lot of training and support. For the price of one A400 you can get pretty close to buying a C-17 and 2 C130's with minimal training and the ability to be supported by other air forces when needed (which can be a life saver from personal experience). It seems like a no brainer to me.

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FAIL

The A400M has always been a costly case of Europork

The A400M has always been a case of Europork, look at the engine where the Airbus selection of P&W Canada (a company with decades of experience with turbo-props) was over-ruled and a European consortium given the work. The Germans wanted to buy westernised Antonov aircraft, the British military wanted a mix of C-17s and C-130s. The only reason for the UK buying the A400M in the first place was to be able to show that it was an active member of the European project, keeping the likes of France happy.

One other issue is that the C130J is c**p compared to the earlier C130K in UK service (the load system doesn't work, more complex engines don't give the fuel efficiency promised because Herks never fly high enough, you can't drop paratroops from them, etc) so if the A400M is worse again that really is not good.

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Stop

Hang on

[...]the aircrew ratio will need to take full account of the strategic role[...]

I thought the whole point of the A400M was that is was to provide tactical arlift not strategic?

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Sure lets play Top Trumps

We can all play that game Mr Page, Lets see I have a Harrier you have a Mirage, Mirage Faster you win. Its a pity that wars cannot be fought this way it would make life so much simpler.

Of course you miss a few points out. Firstly comparing a C-17 and the A400-M is pretty disingenuous since they are designed for different jobs. For same reason we do not all fly on Jumbo jets.

A better comparison would be the Hercules 130-J. You make the point that the A400-M only carries 50% more payload for 3 times the cost. Ignoring the fact the A400M flies faster and farther personally I would thought it would be pretty cost effective to transport the same amount of supplies into a warzone with only 2/3 of the flights so reducing the number of possible targets.

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Bronze badge

Bite the pillow?

Read: I guess Airbus realises it's being shafted.

Trouble is, world economics (read:wars) change faster than plane designs to 'service' them.

Beautiful bit of reasoning there - "It is better to put an end to the horror than have horror without end."

Goes into my Winnie-the-Pooh Bedtime Management Manual. Priceless quote. 10 points, Sir.

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Bad Translation of the Quote

> Beautiful bit of reasoning there - "It is better to put an end to the horror than have horror without end."

This is a common German adage: "Besser ein Ende mit Schrecken als Schrecken ohne Ende."

It should translate as "Better a horrible ending that having horrors without end."

George

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Grenade

What this article misses

Is that the C17s that we have rented for £200m actually come with a bunch of restrictions which limit what we can put on board, and which airfields we can bring them in to. If we actually buy them, at the 2007 cost, they are about $218m, a lot more than the £70m that Lewis has made up in his article. Also, as plenty of other people point out, the A400M is designed to fulfill a more tactical role than the C17. Actually what we should be doing is going out and buying a bunch of Antonovs since they are bigger than the C17, more effective than the C17 and cheaper than the C17. Then spending the rest of the money you've saved by binning A400m on C130Js. There are some problems though. The larger cargo bay of the A400M has been designed to allow you to ship certain types of gear into rough fields that you can't fit in a C130J (for example certain self-propelled artillery, or 2 land-rovers side by side). We would lose that capability if we completely drop the A400M, although that might be an acceptable compromise to some. Heavy lift helicopters can't carry everything an A400M can, so this would mean having less kit at FOBs than possible with the A400M.

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Why oh why

It depresses me no end that Britain cannot design and build a 4 engine propellor driven cargo plane. We might as well dust off the plans for the Bristol Super freighter or something similar.

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Who didn't expect this

"if it is delivered at the agreed price"

I said we should buy American rather than European

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CC
WTF?

The American is already a proven product

This is a no brainer, both the C130 and the C-117 are well proven products and the A400M is nothing more than a massive cockup, cut your losses, the solution is simple...LEASE the American planes!

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FAIL

"Come on politicians - are you listening???"

What an oxymoronic question.

Now, if you'd asked whether they were lying...

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Fire's hot, no need to burn yourself to re-discover that.

I'm an American, but I'm no fan of how much money we spend on our Military. We pretty much outspend the rest of the world put together – and lots of that money is in research. Why in the world the EU would want to spend mountains of money to duplicate what already is for sale is beyond me. Frankly, take advantage of our folly, buy the excellent kit already on the market and laugh all the way to the bank. Spend the savings on helping your people - don't waste it re-inventing the (war) wheel.

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In fight refuelling? Auto pilot?

I'm not sure what's with this 3 sets of aircrew business.

The A400m does not *have* in flight refuelling?

Personally I think Airbus has been an impressive piece of *civillian* European co-operation.

I believe it's now time it stands on its own 2 feet. If they cannot make a profit then they *should* walk away from the deal. That is what *real* commercial companies do or work the deal and learn from the mistakes they made when dealing with *multiple* defense ministries across Europe. That fact (I suspect) has prved more troublesome that *all the worlds airlines put together.

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wrong...

Actually the A400M can be used as the inflight refuelling source for various fighter aircraft, its one of its main design requirements. You really should check your facts before making statements like that...

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Anonymous Coward

Huh?

There's a difference between providing in-flight refueling and being able to receive it.

You should really stop and think how much of a pratt you'll look making statements like that.....

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More Research Next Time Please

Where does Mr Page get his figures from? Or rather, why only consult those who should know for one figure and make the rest up?

The cost of a C-17 is not £70 million but more like £130-150 million and climbing, EXCLUDING services. Through-life costs should be higher than A400M because it is a larger jet powered aircraft that burns more fuel. Also costs more to maintain unless the A400M low-maintenance composite concept does not work out. Saving grace is that the C-17 costs are now well understood, while the exact A400M operating costs remain to be validated in practice.

The idea was that A400M will have much bigger payload capacity and flexibility plus range and speed over C-130 (and particularly the smaller C.160 Transall used by France/Germany/Turkey) with similar ability to go into small unimproved airfields but cost less to acquire and operate than larger aircraft like C-17. Plus it can do some aerial refuelling work. As cost increases the range where this equation still works out is narrowing, but is probably still feasible. And the UK is making components and thus generating revenue/taxes/jobs from every A400M sold. On the American aircraft? Not so much (C-130 engines and some flight software on C-17, both in US subsidiaries).

How about digging through the archives and finding the A400M partners (people/countries) who insisted on developing the engines from scratch rather than use something off the shelf from Canada and present them with the lion share for the cost overrun? And the rest... well, name a large procurement project in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy etc that has not run over budget recently. The C-17 project was in a heap of trouble back in the 90s because of cost overruns and performance issues also. See how that turned out.

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Joke

White Flag Shocker

"France has stated that the customers should simply bite the pillow set out for them and pay more for their planes."

Not like the French Military to Surrender to the demands of "the man"

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Black Helicopters

sod that...

why not buy the russian heavy lifters , i mean they are huge and can piss all over the competition and are probably cheaper as well.

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Anonymous Coward

You know what.......

it is no wonder that this Country, nay all Western Countries, are in such a dire financial state (read effectively bankrupt) when we have had cocks ups, over budgets and criminal behaviours like this one "over budget" cock up over the past 30 years . What has happened is that in the past they have just shuffled those losses over to the next year and so on for thirty years UNTIL the day of reckoning came when Northern Rock went tits up and everyone decided to do an "audit" and found they were all bankrupt. Plus add to this the Bankers who believe they are worth MILLIONS in bonuses for making us bankrupt, plus Council leaders who think they deserve to be paid more than the Prime Minister, and add Coppers like Tony Bliar who gave all his coppers American Express cards so they could screw the taxpayers for £3M and NOT face ANY criminal penalties in MOST cases, plus MP's who screw the taxpayers for millions etc etc etc etc

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FAIL

simply bite the pillow

Yup, you're getting it you-know-where, and we don't want to hear to screaming about it.

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Anonymous Coward

@why oh why

The Superfreighter was a two-engined 'job.

Now if you'd said Blackburn Beverley - a contemporary of the first Hercules and with impressive landing capability on mere dirt strips.....

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the benefits of american tech

The C-17 does sound like a great plane, except that for all but the most minor repairs the only way to get it fixed is to return it to Boeing in the US at your own expense

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FAIL

Go live in America if you like their kit so much!

Yet again a mightly slagging off of non-'merkin products. Okay so I have benefitted from the A400M project thus I can hardly be impartial, but if we took LPs take all the while we would never have motorised transport let alone aircraft, hey the horse and cart does a mighty fine job at a considerably lower buy price and operating cost than these new fangled mechanical contrivances! The fact is that the A400M will fill the role of the C130, plus provide extra capabilities towards the C17 mark and performance within a single airframe that would not be practical or economical using multiple C130s/C17s and a big bonus - it ain't yankee!

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FAIL

Gosh. All that in one 'plane?

That explains it: "Jack of all trades................"

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FAIL

Interesting...

In the commercial sector, where late and over budget leaves you dead in the water (Kind of gives you a focus...), Airbus seem to be managing ok (decent order book, and they managed the A380, which was late, but nowhere near as late as the 787).

What makes a military transport plane soooo much harder than a commercial plane?

Yes they have to perform, but the A380 was a big step, too.

Could the difficulty be the customers have deeper pockets, longer fuses... and no clue?

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Anonymous Coward

Air tankers

I suspect Airbus wouldn't be upset to "lose" the A400M business to the Americans, and in exchange get better odds at selling their air tankers to the USAF...

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subsidized defense industries

For all intents and purposes the US subsidizes it's defense industry just as much as the EU countries do. Ask a company like Boeing...

The main problem we have is too little Europe, not too much. With a stronger EU we could show those colonials who's REALLY boss!

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Jobs Halo

Panavia Tornado again

It seems the EU never learns. We have been through this so many times: the Concorde, the Tornado, the Typhoon, any Airbus plane. Take away the subsidies and none of these projects would have taken flight let alone gone into production.

While an Antonov might be cheaper, it will lack commonality with other NATO partners in Afghanistan. Getting spare parts could be crippling. Of course there is the idea that the A400M is more of a tactical airlifter than a C-17; however, there is a C-17 proposal to turn the C-17 into more of a tactical airlifter than it already is. Now add the fact that a C-17 can carry any Main Battle Tank to a forward operating base and this becomes a no-brainer.

Latest generation C-130s get the job done with all the bells and whistles while fully meeting the tactical airlift need. Bringing up the outsize cargo argument is a point to be sure, but usually not vital.

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Silver badge

So what was the problem?

Politics aside, how exactly did Airbus manage to screw up a simple transport aircraft?

It's not like the Eurofighter (make it a fighter, no make it a carrier plane, now don't now make it a bomber, now make it ....) .

If you can build the A380 how hard is it to make basically a modern copy of a C130 ?

Ok the engines are complicated, but come on !!

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Alert

they screwed it up

by doing design by committee, which any designer will tell you is exactly how to become overbudget, late and be sub-optimal.

Additionally, they made the mistake of agreeing to meet the requirements of the various nations of europe who were buying in, which naturally changed after every election and meant that ever 6-12 months one nation in the consortium would change what they wanted out of the aircraft and Airbus would (foolishly) try to accommodate them.

The smarter thing Airbus SHOULD have done is to do a study about what the nations wanted, take the most common points, design an aircraft and then offer it to the European nations and say "Here, we have this aircraft and it will do this. For additional things, we can make changes on a per nation basis which will cost €X". The design would have then been a lot closer to being on budget, on time and in a state that would make everyone happy.

I hope Airbus learn, i doubt they will...

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That's what you get

Why would anyone expect this to be logical. The socialist agenda is at work here and that's all

it will ever be with the players involved. Jobs for over paid unionists and profits for the friends that

elect government leaders with those profits. This will never end.

UK should design and fly it's own air plane or continue to buy planes from the experts that through

time will always be more cost effective.

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One thing that everyone is forgetting

is that the role of a "Tactical" lift aircraft is to fly into a danger area, drop like a stone to the runway, unload as much cargo as feasibly possible and get the hell out before being shot out of the sky by the nearest militant carrying a MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defence System) and considering how prolific MANPADS and rocket propelled grenade launchers are this is a big requirement.

The A400M is designed as a Tactical lift aircraft so making any comparison to the C17 Strategic Lifter is completely disingenous.

Making the direct comparison to the C130 then the A400M comes out superbly from an operational point of view. Its faster with a higher flight ceiling (so it can get to its destination faster then the C130 and at a height which will take it out of range of all but the most advanced SAM systems), it can land and take off on unprepared and very short runways (same as the C130 and if im not mistaken shortfield performance is even better in this than C130 in this regard) AND it can carry 50% more then the C130. Just looking at it in that regard you have an aircraft which severely outstrips its competitor in all the ways that those planning the mission are interested in.

On top of that it has a few special neat tricks (like inflight refuelling of fighters, and a range which means it can help out on shorter strategic lift routes) and it means you have an aircraft thats versatile and is unlikely to spend large amounts of time waiting for a tactical lift job to come up.

OK the cost at present is high, but i would question some of LP's figures - and making any sort of claim about inservice costs when the aircraft has never been flown in anger before is a bit ridiculous.

My final question for you all is since when did military items begin being purchased based on price rather then ability/survivability? If that were the case the Harrier would never have been developed and in fact why have any new aircraft/ship/tank the olds ones are known and cheap and parts are available - surely there better options then developing something new and more capable...

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Re: One thing that everyone is forgetting

There is one problem with your statement, the C-17 was originally designed to be capable of tactical lift. Ever seen it perform the trick of reversing down the runway or performing a three point turn? This was to address operations from unpaved, rough airfields.

No-one uses it this way because the aircraft is so expensive, why expose a $100m+ aircraft to cheap MANPADS? And the A400M could be in the same boat, too expensive to fly into the forward airstrips.

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Anonymous Coward

Except for the expense...

... the other problem is that the C-17 apparently simply isn't that good at all that rough-field stuff. It can apparently land in a short distance more or less as promised in ideal conditions (though according to one critic, not confidently enough for them to try to land on a real short runway), but not otherwise.

Just to forestall objections, IMO there is a difference between showing examples of landing in 1000m on a 3000m runway and doing the same landing on a 1000m runway. The latter demonstrates the ability as robust, while the former merely suggests the possibility.

It is the same as with tailslides. Russian fighters do tail-slides in airshows, and Westerners would then say Big Deal and swear they have seen a F-15 or -18 do a workable tailslide. I believe them on the working tailslide thing, but there is a huge confidence gap between doing something regularly on airshows and doing it quietly where no one would hear if you blew it.

In both cases, one is putting money where the mouth is, and one is not.

Other problems include a overly high ground pressure. In fact, the C-17's Aircraft Classification Number is higher than the C-5 (and roughly comparable to a An-124 at full load) even though both are much heavier aircraft carrying more load! The C-17 is apparently a threat to tarmac, which doesn't bear optimism on its ability to stay "afloat" on a rough field, and apparently starturns on rough fields are a no-no - too much weight, too much FOD!

For some extra (not so positive) information on the C-17, try this blog:

http://boeingc17.blogspot.com/2008/07/preparing-contingency-airfields-for-c.html

To be honest, I just discovered it last night. It might be controversial, but such blogs always are.

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