Versatility and adaptability have made the C295 “an astonishing success story,” but the tactical airlifter and surveillance platform can still win new business in the Middle East, Airbus Military’s defence capability market development head, Ian Elliot, tells Aviation Week ShowNews.
Over 20% of the aircraft’s 121 total sales have been to customers in the region (12 to Egypt, eight to Oman, five to Algeria and two to Jordan). “Those are the lead entry forces, as we see them,” Elliot says. “There’s definitely scope for more.”
The Royal Air Force of Oman’s decision to give some of its C295 fleet a maritime pollution-control role, by equipping them with the NIMBUS aerial dispersant spray kit from Ayles Fernie International, of the UK, could be a factor in developing new sales opportunities for the aircraft. “[Maritime pollution] is a prevalent issue throughout the Gulf region,” Elliot says. “Many countries are thinking like Oman in terms of an ability to track it and do something about it.
“As we’ve rolled C295 out around the world, primarily as a basic tactical air-transport aeroplane, operators have found that it’s a readily adaptable platform,” he continues. “The Gulf has some very challenging maritime security issues: to have a comparatively cheap platform that can undertake these roles successfully is something we will be very happy to talk to other customers in the region about.”
Elliot also noted that the C295 default build configuration will switch to a design incorporating winglets next year, partially with the region’s market in mind.
“We’ve looked at the sorts of regions where we think our future markets are,” Elliot says. “The sorts of hot-and-high issues which these winglets have been introduced to improve performance, climb gradients and time-to-height are some of the things our extant customers have expressed a desire for. I think the potential future markets are such that it’s worth putting these performance-enhancing modifications onto the entire fleet from next year.”
The UK presently has no maritime patrol air platform, following the decision to cancel the Nimrod MRA-4 program that was taken in the 2010 Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR). A replacement requirement may form part of the next SDSR, due in 2015.
“We’re already talking to staffs in the Ministry of Defense about the experience of some of our extant C295 customers,” says Elliot. “If, at government levels, that decision is changed, we want the relevant staffs to have been already appraised of the capabilities we’ve got.”