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UK scraps additional A400M buy as ‘unaffordable'

The RAF will not receive additional A400M airlifters, with the UK National Audit Office saying the plan is unaffordable. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The United Kingdom has scrapped plans to acquire additional Airbus A400M Atlas airlifters, saying it is no longer affordable.

The National Audit Office (NAO) made the disclosure in its ‘The Equipment Plan 2022 to 2032' report, published on 30 November, reversing the Ministry of Defence's (MoD's) announcement in February that it was seeking to add to the 22 aircraft already contracted.

“An option to purchase additional A400M aircraft was assessed as unaffordable. Air Command is developing an affordable choice to improve A400M availability. Some funding is held centrally,” the report said.

Although costings were not included in the equipment plan report, the NAO had previously said that the additional purchase will be valued at GBP750 million (USD899 million). This would likely equate to eight aircraft to bring the fleet up to 30 A400Ms.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) has received 21 of its 22 A400Ms, with the last scheduled to be handed over shortly. The medium-lift aircraft provides the service's mid-tier airlift capability, with its 37 tonne payload capacity sitting in-between the 22 tonne of the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules and the 72 tonne of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III.

As with its other fixed-wing transport aircraft, the UK's A400M fleet is located at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. The service operates two units for the type in 70 and 30 squadrons, while 206 Squadron continues to roll-out the aircraft's capabilities, with 24 Squadron training crews.

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