Airbus Military’s marketing plan for the A400M airlifter will move into a new phase as the aircraft makes its Dubai debut.

The first delivery to a Middle Eastern customer — Turkey — is imminent, and could happen during the show, Airbus officials say.

Airbus Military’s decision to bring the A400M to the Dubai air show for the first time is a reflection of the maturity of the program, says Ian Elliot, the company’s head of defense capability market development.

“The company’s efforts until this year have been very largely internally focused, to ensure we’re getting it right for the launch customers, and we’re very happy that we’re now at that point,” Elliot tells Aviation Week’s ShowNews. “The flight-test program is extremely mature now — over 2,000 flights and approaching 6,000 flying hours accumulated — which provides us with great confidence. So we’re now at the point of converting that confidence into tangible action, and we’re changing our focus and accelerating the export effort.”

Identifying the Middle East region as “particularly important” for the program, Elliot believes experience with the aircraft among launch nations will hold the key to future orders.

“If you look at some of the air force inventories [across the region], many include very tired legacy airlifters,” he says. “So even if formal replacement competitions have not yet been launched, we can anticipate they will occur. Given the unique nature of the platform, and given that some of those Middle Eastern air forces have some very strong ties to some of the A400 launch nations — [particularly] France, Turkey and the U.K. — I think many Middle Eastern nations will watch with interest to see how those air forces perform.”

The company points to the British Royal Air Force’s experience in operating the A400M alongside the C-17 as being of particular importance. “The Royal Air Force sees great complementarity between those platforms,” Elliot says, “and I think that many other [nations] will think, ‘Maybe there’s a role for that in our country.’” Qatar and the UAE both operate C-17s, while Kuwait is seeking to purchase two of the Boeing-built aircraft.

Delivery of the first Turkish aircraft during the show “is within the bounds of possibility,” according to an Airbus Military spokesman.

“It’s not to do with whether the aircraft operates in accord with their contract,” Elliot explains. “It’s more to do with the availability of VIPs on certain days. But we’re not talking weeks. It’s within the coming days.”