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  • Believe!
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 3:50 PM on Jun 26, 2008

    The first Airbus A400M was rolled out in Seville earlier today. The program's running late due to engine problems - understandably, perhaps, since the TP400 engines and propellers are the biggest such engines developed outside Russia in 50 years - but in a market segment that sees a new entrant about once every decade and a half, that's probably not a show-stopper.

    blog post photo

    My personal prediction - more detail here - is that the A400M is destined for a long production run. First of all, it occupies the Goldilocks market segment:  it's twice the size of the C-130, which is decreasingly able to carry today's heavier military payloads, and half the size of the C-17, which is an excellent airplane but too expensive for most air forces to buy in more than handfuls. The Donar SP gun is the first new weapon to be designed around the A400M.

    It represents a careful balance of box size and payload, and cruise speed and short-runway capability - and although it is twice the size of the C-130 it has three times as many wheels, a valuable asset in war zones where the asphalt is not of the best quality. The four engines and enormous propellers are a big asset for STOL:  four engines equal an easier engine-out case and lower safe flight speeds, and the props boost lift over the wings and flaps and bring the aircraft to a sharp halt on touchdown. At the same time, it's fast enough to refuel jets if necessary.

    blog post photo

    The avionics are modern and will be upgraded along with the Airbus commercial family. One interesting development - led by Germany with Saab's avionics division as a major contractor - is a terrain-based, automated, silent low-altitude navigation system for special operations.

    pix: EADS

    Tags: ar99, a400m, airbus

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