Traditionally it is more usual that defense ministries threaten to ax programs on cost grounds, rather than the industry lead. Airbus Military, however, is taking just this tack on the A400M airlifter as it tries to force a decision – and concessions – from the partner nations.
Tom Enders, the Airbus CEO, is reportedly looking at chopping the program if no agreement is reached by the end of this month. The last deadline for a deal to be cut was the end of December 2009.
The likely focus of the industry and political posturing is Germany, which has so far publicly given no indication that it is willing to accommodate changes in the program that would ease the financial pressure on Airbus and its parent EADS.
The argument is reminiscent of the debate in Germany in 1992 over continuing participation in the then European Fighter Aircraft. On this occasion the then Defense Minister Volker Ruhe appeared determined to pull Berlin from the program arguing it was unaffordable – with industry warning of the industrial impact of such a move. A deal was cut at the eleventh hour – following – claims and counter-claims by the interested parties being made in the press.
In a narrow sense all Enders is doing is attempting to protect his shareholders interests by raising the possibility that Airbus walk away from the A400M given the financial implications of the program as presently structured.
The consequences of such a move would be far reaching, with ramifications throughout Europe.
London is believed to have provided a surprisingly sympathetic ear – though it is not thought to have been able to provide any additional funding. Instead the UK is expected to drop the number of aircraft to be purchased from 25 to between 14-19 aircraft, though the overall funding level will remain the same.
Picture Credit Airbus Military