Defense Technology International - June 2007 - (Page 42)
LIFT STRATEGIC OPEN GOAL Airbus and the A400M may get a free shot at the airlift market BILL SWEETMAN • MINNEAPOLIS W ashington policy hawks are having fits about the fact that the U.S. Air Force has two choices when it comes to a new tanker aircraft: accept Boeing as a monopoly suppli- Airbus A400M, slated to make its first flight early next year, er, or accept an open, equal competition could become the world’s premier strategic lift aircraft. that could result in the aircraft being assembled in France. no delivery positions in 2010 and only a ered C-17. The engines are fuel-efficient, which, combined with 105,000 lb. of fuel The scene is being set for even more fun few in 2011. a few years down the road. When USAF’s The launch contract covers 180 aircraft tankage, gives the aircraft a robust ability to fleet of long-range airlifters starts to wear for seven NATO nations, with Germany trade payload for range. With a 44,000-lb. out—a date being driven closer by combat (60), France (50), Spain (27) and the U.K. load, the A400M has an oceanic range of operations—there will be one military car- (25) placing the largest orders. The other 3,450 naut. mi. Noteworthy design features include the go aircraft in production that can do a long- national partners’ and customers’ orders are distance mission for the U.S. military, and Turkey (10), Belgium (7) and Luxembourg main landing gear, with three independent it will be made in Europe by Airbus. (1). South Africa and Malaysia have orders twin-wheel units on both sides. Many airlift designers have skimped on the wheels to save Predicting a big future for the Airbus for eight and four aircraft, respectively. A400M may be a long shot. It has not been The 300,000-lb. A400M is twice the size weight. “It’s not a question of whether you a strong player on the world market, having of a C-130J and half the size (and price) of can land on a soft field, but how many times scored 12 orders outside its partner nations. a C-17. With an 81,500-lb. payload and you can do it before you chew the field up,” The A400M may also be underestimated twice the volume of a CC-130J, the A400M says one Airbus military adviser. The A400M because, for years, progress was slow. Stud- will haul loads that are too large for the is geared for 1,000 passes on a wet field. A400M designers spent a lot of time tryies of what was first called the Future In- C-130, including a pair of Tiger helicopters ternational Multirole Airlifter were an- with their rotor heads in place or modern ing to forestall the propeller-airframe interaction problems that plagued the C-130J. nounced during the Farnborough air show infantry fighting vehicles. in 1982. Although the A400M has propellers, its One result: the “down between engines” deThe problem was not technology so maximum cruising speed—Mach 0.72—is sign. The inboard and outboard propellers much as getting seven European partners not much less than that of the turbofan-pow- will be opposite-handed with the downward blades between the engines. This to agree on something at the means that engine-out handling same time, a task on which no is more symmetrical, leading to progress was made for many a 15-20% reduction in the size years. The solution was to hand of the tail, and a more benign the project to Airbus, which is airflow past the side doors. The running the A400M as a comEuroprop International TP400mercial program. It took time D6 engine and its 17.5-ft. proto get the partners to sign the peller, the largest propeller encontract; but an agreement was gine on any non-Russian aircraft, reached in March 2003, and the is scheduled to start flight tests project has been moving forin August. ward since then. Following the production The main reason that few of problems that afflicted the A380, the A400Ms have been sold, EADS launched a review of the however, is that Airbus does not A400M, and told the U.K. parhave many to offer. By the time liament in March that the delivthe program started, the partery schedule was not at risk. In ners’ C-130s and Transall March and April, the first maC160s were overdue for retirejor airframe components—inment. Airbus plans a ramp-up Workers assemble fuselage of the A400M. to 30 deliveries a year by 2012, The giant aircraft will have twice the volume of cluding the all-composite wing, a first for Airbus—were delivbut the company has virtually a C-130J and a payload of up to 81,500 lb. AIRBUS MILITARY PHOTOS 42 DEFENSE TECHNOLOGY INTERNATIONAL JUNE 2007 www.aviationweek.com/dti
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Defense Technology International - June 2007
Around the World
Closing the Gap
On the Record
Defense Technology International - June 2007
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