Will Spain be able to maintain its commitment to buying 27 A400M military transport aircraft? This was the question I set my Spanish colleagues and Domingo Ureña, Airbus Military CEO, in the informal setting of a restaurant in Toulouse on the last evening of the two-day TNB (trade media briefing) last week.
“No question”, the answer shot back from all around, “we can't do without them, our current transport fleet is on its knees.” Spain does not take delivery of its first aircraft until 2016 and the last one in 2022, according to a Spanish defense ministry procurement agency document dated March 27, 2012. And as payment does not have to be made in a single lump sum but can be spread until the last delivery, the impact on the Spanish defense budget should be mitigated.
There was also the unspoken hope that between now and 2016 the Spanish economy will get better. “The government we now have is made up of technocrats,” the Spaniards told me, adding that at least the defense minister Pedro Morenés is tackling some of the absurdities of the procurement system which still has each force buying just for itself. And Ureña was very pleased at the unusual number of offers of help of all sorts he got from the government when taking the A400M to the FIDAE International Air Show in Santiago (Chile) last month. Reading between the lines one must assume that the previous government was less forthcoming with its offers of help and advice!
Meanwhile, the A400M continues its flight testing, undertaking landings on a grass strip this week.
photo credit: Airbus Military