Airbus remains confident that it can secure export customers for its A400M airlifter, but has cautioned that sales are likely to be relatively modest given the aircraft’s cost and sophistication.
Speaking at the company’s annual press conference in Toulouse, CEO Tom Enders said that efforts continue to secure the first export customer for the type since Malaysia joined the programme in 2005, but that the aircraft’s superior capabilities and associated price-tag make it a challenging prospect compared to Airbus’ popular portfolio of smaller transport aircraft.
“Exporting the A400M is a very different game from the smaller transports built [at the same location] in Spain. The A400M is a product of the requirements of six [partner] nations who are very sophisticated, and you just don’t find those kind of customers around every corner,” Enders said on 14 February, adding, “I am optimistic that there will be exports, but it won’t be in the hundreds [of aircraft].”
To secure exports Airbus needs clear government support from the governments of France and the UK as the lead operators of the aircraft, Enders explained. “I believe we have a level of maturity now that makes it clear to potential export customers that we have an excellent aircraft with excellent supporting data,” he said.
Airbus has a 174-aircraft order book that comprises 53 for Germany, 50 for France, 27 for Spain, 22 for the UK, 10 for Turkey, eight for Belgium(including one to be operated on behalf of Luxembourg), and four for Malaysia. Of these, 72 have been delivered to date.
In March 2018 Indonesia confirmed its intention to procure two A400Ms, and the country is the Airbus’ strongest near-term prospect for a new export sale. Separately, South Korea is reported to be in talks with Spain to receive a number of its surplus aircraft.
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