Airbus restructures A400M programme over production delays


Alonso

Airbus Defence and Space has announced plans to restructure the A400M Atlas aircraft programme amid increasing criticism from the European governments over production delays.

The A400M programme covers supply of 174 aircraft to seven Nato member countries, namely Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, and Turkey.

Only 11 aircraft have been delivered to date, including six to France, one to Germany, while the UK and Turkey each received two airlifters, after production delays, cost overruns, and technical faults.

As part of the restructuring, Airbus has transferred A400M industrial activities to its Operations unit, which is led by Pilar Albiac-Murillo.

However, programme-related activities, such as development and customer deliveries, will continue to be overseen by Rafael Tentor-led military aircraft business unit.

The move follows the resignation of Airbus Defence and Space military aircraft division head Domingo Urena-Raso, who led the troubled A400M programme since 2009.

"Airbus will do its utmost to overcome problems with integration of military capabilities so the customers receive the aircraft they need in the shortest time possible."

The resignation comes as German politicians asked Airbus managers to justify the delays to the Parliament, which they argue have damaged the company's reputation, as reported by The New York Times.

In addition, Turkey and France are believed to have expressed concerns on the ongoing problems associated with the project.

Airbus chief executive officer Bernhard Gerwert will serve as interim head of the division until 1 March, when Fernando Alonso, who is currently the head of Airbus flight test operations, would take over the responsibility.

Gerwert said the current aircraft in service are showing good performance and have also been deployed in military operations, but conceded that the company has failed to perform at the expected level in integration of military capabilities and the industrial ramp-up.

Gerwert said: "That is unacceptable and we will fix that. We are fully conscious of how dependent the customer nations are on this new airlifter and therefore take their concerns very seriously.

"We will do our utmost to overcome them so the customers receive the aircraft they need in the shortest time possible.

"I expect that the new team will rapidly address existing shortfalls in the most efficient way."

Airbus said: "The military capabilities consisting of aerial delivery, cargo handling system, defensive aids subsystems (DASS), and air-to-air refuelling with pods will be integrated in the second half of 2015, following certification and qualification for each capability.

"Additional military capabilities will be integrated gradually up until 2018, as contractually agreed.

"We are continuing our intense and constructive discussion with OCCAR and the customer nations regarding the delivery schedule, and will communicate on this once those have been concluded."


Image: Fernando Alonso has been named as new head of military aircraft at Airbus Defence and Space. Photo: courtesy of Copyright 2013 Airbus Defence and Space.