MADRID — Despite delays in starting function and reliability testing, Airbus Military still believes it can deliver the first A400M airlifter to the French air force this year.

The company has a contractual requirement to hand over the first aircraft before April 2013, but Gustavo Garcia Miranda, vice president for market development, says “we are pretty confident” delivery will take place this year.

That view is echoed by Antonio Rodriguez-Barberan, senior commercial vice president, who suggests it could be a “late, late” 2012 handover.

With testing now topping 3,200 flight hours and development of the baseline system due to wrap up in the coming months, the company also has begun ramping up export sales activity. As part of that effort, in the next 2-3 months the aircraft is due to visit Turkey, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Belgium and Algeria. Additional country visits in the second half of the year are expected.