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Paris Air Show 2019: Saudi Arabia considering A400M as An-132D fades

19 June 2019
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Saudi Arabia is looking for a heavier airlift capability, and is considering the Airbus A400M. Source: French Ministry of Defence

The Royal Saudi Air Force is currently considering the Airbus Military A400M Atlas medium lift transport aircraft.

Chief Executive Officer of Saudi Arabia Military Industries, Dr Andreas Schwer, told Jane's of the country's interest in the platform to fulfil a need for the transportation of armoured vehicles by the country's military.

"The focus of the Saudi Air Force and other local customers has changed from a 10-tonne payload platform to higher capacity platforms. There's a shift in focus on our side to bigger aviation platforms…but we might shift priority to a bigger model [aircraft]," Schwer said.

Saudi Arabia currently operates the Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules for transport, with approval for the acquisition of 25 C-130J aircraft given in 2012 by the US Congress. Progress on the acquisition of the C-130J platform has, however, been slow to materialise.

"The C-130 payload is 20 tonnes, and the An-132D is a 10-tonne payload, so you need to acquire a bigger platform. The Air Force is looking to go into the 40-tonne size, and that is why we are in intense discussions with Airbus over the A400M."

The development of the An-132D programme had also changed following the acquisition of elements of Taqnia and the King Abdulaziz Centre for Science & Technology (KACST) by SAMI, with SAMI now examining the commercial and export potential of the aircraft before proceeding further with the programme.

Development of the An-132D had been between Taqnia, KACST, and Ukraine's Antonov. The An-132D was based on a legacy An-32 'Cline' transport aircraft that had been modernised to Western standards. Production was planned to take place in Saudi Arabia, with the aircraft to be sold to commercial and military users for operations in austere environments.

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