Paris (UPI) Mar 18, 2009
European plane maker Airbus is eyeing the United States as a key market for its A400M military transport plane.
The head of Airbus Military, Domingo Urena, told reporters in Paris of the company's target to export around 210 of the four-engine turboprop freighter to the United States, the BBC reports. Airbus wants to sell at least 500 planes on top of the 184 ordered by the program's seven European partner nations.
Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company recently pulled the plug from its bid for a $40 billion contract to outfit the U.S. Air Force with refueling tankers because the bidding conditions allegedly favored rival Boeing.
The decision to abandon the bid caused the European Commission to warn of U.S. protectionism but it won't stop Airbus from trying to sell the A400M in the United States, Urena said.
"It's out of the question that we don't go over to compete in the United States, insofar as the Americans give us the opportunity to do it," Urena was quoted as saying by the BBC.
The A400M would compete against the hugely popular Lockheed C130 Hercules, also a four-engine turboprop, and the jet-powered Boeing C-17.
Airbus says the A400M can carry double the load of the C130, and is more fuel-efficient than the C-17.
Urena's comments come only a few days after the A400M project, to which an estimated 10,000 jobs are linked, received a life-saving shot in the arm.
After months of extensive talks, Europe's most ambitious military project was saved this month when EADS and the partner nations struck a deal to share an additional $4.8 billion in cost overruns. The agreement came after EADS threatened to abandon the project, which has long run into trouble.
Airbus at the launch of the program in 2003 agreed to a fixed price and delivery date and it can't meet either of them.
Germany, Britain, France and Spain, together with Belgium, Luxembourg and Turkey -- the original partner nations -- have ordered 184 of the A400M planes. They were scheduled to be delivered in 2009, a date that has been pushed back to 2013.
The partner countries desperately need a new freighter plane: Britain is eager to modernize its fleet of Hercules and C-17 carriers, worn by the mission in Afghanistan; and France and Germany want new transport planes to replace their 4-decade-old C-160 Transall machines, which are slow and inflexible.
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