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.