EADS executives expect that - despite the bloody tanker wars, and late flight tests - the USAF and Army will take a serious look at the A400M airlifter. The debut of an A400M model at the Air Force Association convention in Washington DC is the start of a serious campaign to assess US airlift needs and to look for a potential partner to market the new airplane in the US.
The logic is impeccable. EADS knows as well as everybody else that the US Army is buying a boatload of 30-ton vehicles that won't fit in a C-130 without the use of a cutting torch. There are not enough C-17s to move it all, and the official solution to the problem - Joint Heavy Lift, Joint Future Tactical Lift or whatever it is called this month - won't arrive for a decade or more. So Boeing is pitching the C-17B and Lockheed Martin a widebody C-130. But, as EADS observes, the A400M exists (even if it is late) and is fully funded, and could be in US service in useful numbers by 2015.
What seems to be on the cards is a potential contest among the C-17B, the "fat Herc" and the A400M as a stopgap solution. Moreover, an EADS-Lockheed Martin link-up could make it a two-way race.