With the first examples of its A400M airlifter now in service with France, Airbus Military is beginning to market the new generation airlifter out beyond the partner nations.

Although many air arms in the region have shored up their transport capabilities in recent years, Airbus Military believes the A400M is highly suited to the requirements of air forces around the Gulf region and beyond, which is why the company will displaying the new generation airlifter in the flying display here at the Dubai Airshow.

The debut flying display will shored up on in the static with an appearance from a C295 twin-engined medium transport, in the colors of the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) and an Airbus A330-200 multi-role tanker transport, from the United Arab Emirates Air Force and Air Defense. It is the first time that all three products will have appeared at Dubai at the same time.

Head of Airbus Military, Domingo Ureña-Raso, believes the airshow is a critical opportunity to prove the capabilities of the combined family of Airbus Military products, he spoke to Aviation Week ShowNews about the importance of the event and the region for the company.

ShowNews: How important has the Middle East market been for Airbus Military in recent years?

Domingo: The UAE itself and Saudi Arabia were critical in establishing the A330 MRTT in the market. They each ordered three and then Saudi Arabia ordered another three. Two of our largest sales of the C295 were the eight aircraft for Oman – transport and maritime patrol - and now a total of 12 for Egypt, plus six in Algeria.

It would appear that transport requirements for many of the Middle Eastern countries have now been fulfilled with orders for C-17 and C-130J, what can Airbus Military bring to the table in the region now?

I think it’s more complex than that. Although they all compete, no other aircraft can do what the A400M can do. The C-130 has half the payload/range capability and a smaller cargo hold, and the C-17 does not have true tactical characteristics compatible with short and soft strips. Plus the A400M is a very flexible tanker which is an important point in this region.

What are the key selling points for Middle Eastern nations for the A400M?

Nations in this region are looking to play a greater role on the world stage both in military and humanitarian terms, they frequently face threats to their borders and some have large territories to secure, and they want to act as robust coalition partners. Technologies give it world-leading capabilities being able to fly large and heavy loads, or 116 troops, at jet-like speeds and altitudes to the point of need and land on short and unpaved airstrips. You can rapidly respond to a border incursion with a substantial fighting force, or fly heavy relief supplies to a humanitarian disaster scene 2,000 miles away.

Does the end of C-17 production boost opportunities for the A400M, and do re-engined/modernized Ilyushin Il-76s, the Antonov An-70 or the Embraer KC-390 or indeed the new Chinese airlifter, present a challenge?

I think any operator has to ask himself “do I really want to buy a very expensive transport aircraft which is going out of production, when I could buy the most modern aircraft in the world just as it is at the start of its life?” The performance of the Russian and Chinese aircraft is inferior and they cannot give the kind of guarantees of mission availability and robust support that we do. Regarding the KC-390, which is still very much on the drawing board, it’s difficult to understand where it fits into the market.

You recently said the A400M “celebrates what Europe can achieve when it gets its act together,” but if you were launching the program now, what would you have done differently?

The fact is that once the industrial program was initiated it was hugely successful and met its goals quicker than any comparable military program. I think we are sometimes not given full credit for that. But as Tom Enders has been saying, in Europe we all have to be realistic about requirements and funding from the outset.