3 October 2013
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus delivered the first of a batch of 50 A400M military transport planes – complete with critical components manufactured in South Africa, by South Africans – to the French Air Force on Monday.
Engineers, artisans and technicians at South African company Denel Aerostructures took time off work to watch the handover celebrations – attended by Crown Prince Felipe of Spain and French Defence Minister Jean Yves le Drian – via live video linkup with Airbus Military’s facility in Seville, Spain.
The giant airlifter, the first of 50 ordered by France and one of a total of 174 on order, will be based at France’s Orleans Bricy Air Base, where it will be initially used for training before being deployed on military and humanitarian missions.
South Africa is one of seven countries working on the A400M programme. Denel Aerostructures, the only tier 1 supplier of manufactured parts to the A400M outside of Europe, is responsible for the design, engineering and fabrication of the aircraft’s wing-to-fuselage fairing and fuselage top-shells.
South African company Aerosud manufactures the A400M’s cockpit lining, cabin lining and the wing-tip, while Cape Town-based Cobham South Africa supplies the aircraft’s satellite communications antennae and underlying systems.
According to Denel, the A400M’s wing-to-fuselage fairing, which functions as a protective, aerodynamic shroud over sensitive equipment located in the centre wing part of the A400M, is the largest single aerostructure component yet produced in South Africa.
At the Paris Airshow in France in June, Airbus Military placed a third multi-million rand contract with Denel, for the manufacturing of the “ribs, spars and swords” making up the inside structure of the A400M’s distinctive tail section.
Denel chairman Zoli Kunene said the R200-million (€15.1-million) work package, contracted to run over the entire life of the A400M programme, “demonstrates Airbus Military’s confidence in Denel and South Africa’s design and manufacturing capabilities, coupled with our ability to deliver on time and within budgets”.
Denel describes the A400M as “the most cost-efficient and versatile airlifter ever conceived and absolutely unique in its capabilities”.
With a cargo hold designed to carry the outsize equipment needed for both military and humanitarian disaster relief missions, a range of over 3 300 kilometres, and the ability to land on unprepared terrain, the airlifter has been “designed to meet the needs of the world’s armed forces in the 21st century”, the company says.
It is also “ideally suited to the typical African peace-support missions which continue to be undertaken by South Africa in support of African Union and United Nations mandates on the continent”.
SAinfo reporter and SAnews.gov.za