Malaysia Receives First A400M Airlifter

11:00:00 AM
KUALA LUMPUR, -- Malaysia has received the first of its four Airbus Defence and Space (DS) A400M Atlas transport aircraft, the company announced on 10 March.

The handover of aircraft MSN022 to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) took place at the final assembly line (FAL) in Seville, Spain, the day before the announcement. The Chief of the Malaysian Defence Force, General Tan Sri Dr Zulkifeli, accepted the aircraft along with other dignitaries on behalf of the RMAF.

The aircraft will shortly arrive in Malaysia, ahead of the LIMA Airshow that is to take place in Langkawi from 17 to 21 March.

Malaysia became the A400M's first (and so far only) export customer when in 2005 it signed a MYR8 billion (USD2.5 billion at the 2005 rate) contract for four aircraft to supplement its ageing Lockheed Martin C-130H-30/KC-130H Hercules fleet.

The RMAF was originally due to have received its first two aircraft in the second half of 2013, with the remaining pair to follow in 2014. However, this timeline was revised when the programme was re-baselined in 2009, with the commencement of deliveries put back to the first quarter of 2015. Malaysia is due to receive two more aircraft this year, with the final one set to arrive in 2016.

While the A400M programme has cost Malaysia MYR8 billion, it has received back at least MYR907 million in an offset deal with domestic company Composites Technology Research Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

With 12 of the 174-aircraft orderbook now delivered to five customers (France, Germany, Malaysia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom) in a logistics configuration, Airbus DS will shortly begin rolling out additional tactical capabilities (featuring full airdrop, self-defence, and a tanker role). This will lead through to the release of the Full Common Standard Aircraft in 2018, at which time Airbus DS will then set about retrofitting all earlier aircraft already delivered to this final standard.

Billed as a competitor for the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules, the A400M can carry strategic payloads over strategic distances, while being able to deliver them in a tactical fashion to where they are needed. Figures released by Airbus DS show that with a 20-tonne payload, the A400M can fly an unrefuelled 3,400 n miles at 37,000 ft and at near-airliner speeds of Mach 0.72.

Malaysia's first A400M aircraft will be displayed at the LIMA Airshow from 17 to 21 March.

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