U.S. competition for Europes A400M?
Boeing and Lockheed Martin have teamed to offer their C-17 and C-130J transports to Europe as an alternative to the multinational A400M transport, and asked Pentagon acquisition chief Pete Aldridge to back the proposal at a meeting of alliance armaments ministers last month.
The companies made the request in a March letter to Aldridge that was signed by Boeing Military Aircraft and Missile Systems President and CEO Jerry Daniels and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics President Dain Hancock, according to Defense Daily.
Europe's Airbus Military is to oversee development of the A400M under a $12 billion-plus contract to generate a new aircraft smaller than Boeing's C-17 and larger than Lockheed's C-130J. As envisioned, 196 A400Ms would enter service by the end of the decade, an aggressive schedule that some analysts have challenged as unachievable. For their part, top European officials maintain the program is critical to address Europe's glaring shortage of airlift capabilities.
In April, NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson said he will present alliance leaders at a November meeting in Prague detailed proposals aimed at remedying Europe's capability gaps. These could include a proposal to acquire Boeing C-17 and Lockheed Martin C-130J transports rapidly as a stopgap measure until the multinational A400M enters service starting in 2008.
Launch of the A400M development program has been slowed by Germany's inability to fund fully its more than $7 billion stake in the effort. In their letter to Aldridge, Daniels and Hancock offered a "high-low" mix of in-production C-17s and C-130Js that would address Europe's airlift needs more quickly. Although shifting away from A400M would be difficult for European nations, the letter conceded, this could be counterbalanced by offering Europe's industry a role in producing the American planes.
Britain several years ago decided to lease four C-17s as a stopgap measure
until the introduction of the A400M. Britain also has bought C-130Js.
British officials have stressed that while A400M remains its preferred
airlift solution, additional acquisitions of the American aircraft are
an option should the European project fail. The lack of adequate airlift
is contributing to a growing gap in capabilities between the United States
and its allies, which has worried officials on both sides of the Atlantic
for many years.
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