After being plagued by numerous delays, Airbus' new military transport mega-aircraft, the A400M, was officially presented to French officials during a ceremony on Monday in the southern Spanish city of Seville.
European aerospace giant Airbus on Monday delivered its first A400M military transport plane to French officials in the southern Spanish city of Seville on Monday, marking what the plane manufacturer hopes will be a string of strong sales worldwide.
Four years late and 6.2 billion euros over budget, Airbus and parent company EADS, officially handed over the revolutionary aircraft to France, its first client, though the plane was actually ready earlier.
"It is an extremely high performance aircraft and I am quite proud that France is number one for delivery," French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a handover ceremony also attended by Spain's Prince Felipe.
Last June, French President François Hollande made a big entrance at the annual Paris Air Show by arriving in an A400M with Le Drian.
It took 10 years to bring the A400M to the skies in one of the European military industry's most ambitious projects, backed by seven partners: NATO members Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.
Designed at the request of European chiefs of staff after the first Gulf War of 1991, which exposed the need for such a plane, the A400M is a multi-task military air lifter.
Equipped with four turboprops, it can transport up to 37 tonnes including armour or helicopters over a distance of 3,300 kilometres (2,050 miles) but also land on unprepared terrain such as sand.
The A400M will be the sole plane on the market to challenge the US-made Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules, which has a capacity of 20 tonnes and was designed more than 50 years ago.
Its other rival, the C-17 Globemaster, which can lift 76 tonnes, will exit production from 2015, US manufacturer Boeing announced recently.
Airbus Military aims to export 400 A400M planes in the next 30 years, beyond the 174 already ordered in Europe and Malaysia. Germany has ordered 53, France 50, Spain 27 and Britain 22. The manufacturer will assemble ten planes next year, and then about 30 a year.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-09-30