- Title: FRANCE/FILE: France receives its first Airbus A400M military cargo plane
- Date: 30th September 2013
- Summary: FRENCH DEFENCE MINISTER JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN ARRIVING TO INSPECT TROOPS DRUMS LE DRIAN INSPECTING TROOPS MILITARY BAND PLAYING
- Embargoed: 15th October 2013 13:00
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Topics: Defence / Military,Transport
- Reuters ID: LVABZF0U2QFAZ1JILHT7Q4XBNSWZ
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: The French army welcomed its first long-awaited Airbus A400M military transport plane at a ceremony in France on Monday (September 30).
After a ceremony in Spain where it is assembled, the first A400M was honoured at a French military base in Orleans.
France's defence minister said the export potential for EADS's A400M military transporter is considerable, as the 20 billion euro ($27 billion) project starts delivering aircraft to its founding nations after years of delays.
After a tortuous 30 years in development, the first of 170 troop and cargo planes ordered by seven nations grants Europe a step towards independence in military transport, a key plank of foreign intervention capability.
"With the A400M, the Atlas, we will have a range of 8,700 km without stopover, we will have 340 cubic metres of hold space, that's twice the capacity of a C130, the load will be four times that of a Transal at twice the speed. What is at stake here is the enlargement of our strategic space," French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a speech.
The ceremony kickstarted an A400M export campaign, a glimmer of hope to a European aircraft whose foreign sales have been dogged by costly problems with its huge turbo-prop engines and a four-year delivery delay.
The A400M was designed to meet a shortfall in military transport capacity among seven NATO nations: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.
But the 20 billion euro project went more than 5 billion euros over budget, forcing buyer nations to agree a 3.5 billion euro bailout in 2010, part of which is supposed to be repaid from export royalties.
But Le Drian however told reporters in Orleans the export potential was strong.
"This aircraft comes on the market at a time when it has relatively little competition and it will burst onto the export market with varied strengths as it is in the interests of France, Britain, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Turkey that it sells, not only in our countries but also for the whole of what Airbus Military represents, so everyone has an interest in this so I am very optimistic about its future," Le Drian said.
A recent decision to halt production of the Boeing C-17 strategic jet-powered transporter, a rival to the A400M, breathed life into hopes for new export orders for the plane.
Until now, the only export customer is Malaysia, with four planes on order. South Africa canceled an order.
Airbus sees a market for several hundred aircraft. But the company has expressed concerns about plans by some of the plane's European customers to sell A400Ms they have ordered directly on to customers outside the region, frustrating Airbus hopes for producing extra planes.
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