Berlin (UPI) Jan 27, 2011
The German government has decided to stick with the troubled Airbus A400M airlifter project but announced that its air force would take 20 planes fewer than planned.
Germany in November cut its order from 60 to 53 planes because of the program's massive cost increases. Berlin has since been under pressure to reduce the order further.
In a Wednesday decision, the government said it would stick with its order of 53 A400M airlifters but try to immediately sell 13 planes to foreign customers, cutting the overall fleet for its own forces by one-third.
Juergen Koppelin, a high-ranking member of the Parliament's military budget committee, said the sale would relieve the budget while at the same time paying tribute to the actual needs of the German Bundeswehr, which is to be reduced in size over the coming years.
The Bundeswehr -- or, for that matter, the taxpayer -- remains the risk-bearer of such a strategy -- if the Germans can't sell the 13 additional planes, they will have to pay for them, German newspaper Handelsblatt reports.
The A400M program was saved in November when its European partner nations agreed to provide a $4.6 billion bailout after negotiations with European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., the parent of Airbus.
Seven nations have ordered the A400M military transport aircraft from Airbus Military but most of them, including Germany and Britain, have scaled back orders due to budget pressures and because the plane has become more expensive than anticipated.
Agreed to in 2003, The A400M program was originally to cost $27 billion but, according to a recent study, final costs could rise to $44 billion. The program is three to four years behind schedule.
A fully operational version won't be ready until 2018, the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper reported in November, citing documents for the defense committee of the German Parliament.
France expects to receive the first planes in 2013 but those will be basic versions; Germany will get its first A400M planes in late 2014, the newspaper said. Airbus will cut back on the sales price of the basic planes and upgrade them at its own expense.
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 more than 30-year-old C-160 Transall machines, which are slow and inflexible.
Airbus claims the A400M can carry double the load of the hugely popular Lockheed C130 Hercules, also a four-engine turboprop, and is more fuel efficient than the jet-powered Boeing C-17.
Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Turkey are involved in the program.
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Outside View: Think the way out of danger
Washington (UPI) Jan 26, 2011
The traditional U.S. solution to military threats has generally been to spend rather than think our way clear of danger. With the wind down of the wars in Iraq and hopefully Afghanistan and the state of the economy with debts and deficits that seem endless, U.S. defense budgets will and must decline, probably dramatically. In these circumstances, the usual plea is "to do more with less. ... read more
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