Three long-distance horses from Airbus Military’s stable
A FORCE Report
Sevilla, Spain: Airbus Military (AM) of the EADS group has three of its five aircraft products lined up for lucrative business with India. The A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft has been selected by the Indian Air Force, the C-295 aircraft and probably its improved version, the C-295W aircraft is a strong contender for replacement of the aged Avro aircraft, and the new A400M which can carry 37 tons, dubbed the aircraft for the 21st century, will certainly be watched closely by the IAF.
For these reasons, the annual Trade Media Briefing (TMB-13) held in Sevilla on May 29 and 30, was a keenly awaited invitation. The AM’s San Pablo factory in Sevilla has the complete production and final assembly lines of C-212, CN-235 and C-295 and well as the final assembly line of A400M set up in 2007. FORCE was amongst over 65 journalists from 20 countries who participated in the two-day event. The extremely well-organised TMB-13 comprised briefings, visits to production lines, and an exciting flying experience in A400M, two of which later participated in the Paris Air Show held in mid-June.
AM was formally created in April 2009, following the integration of the former Military Transport Aircraft Division (MTAD) and Airbus Military Sociedad Limitada (AMSL) into Airbus. This integration allows for a single and streamlined organisation. Airbus Military has its own P&L accounting, and employs more than 5,000 people.
Replying to a question by FORCE, AM’s Rafael Tentor, head of programmes light and medium and derivatives, said that: ‘All documentation for six A330 MRTT selected by the IAF had been completed. The matter now rests with the Indian government and we hope to sign the contract by the end of 2013.’ He confirmed the possibility of India buying six more A330 MRTT as a follow-on order.
To another question, Tentor disclosed that AM’s C-295 would be offered for the 56 Avro replacement programme (days later, at the Paris Air Show, AM representative confirmed having received the RFP for the Avro replacement programme from the Indian defence ministry). When asked if mere 56 aircraft justified setting up of the C-295 aircraft production line in India, Tentor replied in the affirmative.
“As EADS already has good commercial foot-prints in India, in an incremental way, a C-295 assembly line and a full supply chain could be set up if AM gets the Avro replacement contract,” he said.
Moreover, “56 aircraft cannot be the end of the story. We are sure that there will be more opportunities in India. If our C-295 is successful, we could even think of exports from India into the future,” said Tentor, confirming that AM was in talks with Indian companies including the newly set-up Reliance aerospace for the Avro replacement programme. “We could transfer up to 60 per cent C-295 content to the Indian partner,” he said.
Tentor’s enthusiasm reflects what Domingo Urena Raso, the president and CEO of AM since its inception in 2009 has always maintained. He told FORCE that, “For us, India is a strategic market. We see great possibilities with the Indian armed forces, paramilitary forces and its vibrant defence industry.” This assertion is based on facts. Outside the US, India is the fourth country in the world with the largest defence spending in the past decade, the other nations being Brazil, China and Japan. Two definitive trends, according to Tentor that need to be recognised are, one, all European nations’ defence expenditure is in decline, and two, the world is moving towards purchasing platforms which can do more and more civic and humanitarian missions. And this is where AM steps in with products which are especially adapted to challenging situations. With its present portfolio, AM appears confident of garnering about USD 43 billion out of a total world market of USD 133 billion in its product category over next 10 years.
Regarding product presentations, the first was on MRTT by Antonio Carmazana, programme director, AM directives. Antonio stressed on four issues: that A330 MRTT is now in service with four of world’s leading air forces, Australia, UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (France has already indicated its intention to place an order for the aircraft and other campaigns are running worldwide, notably in Singapore); that the tanker is highly reliable and has set new standards in troops’ comfort; that it is advancing rapidly towards full air-to-air refuelling (AAR) capability; and it has already benefited from operational enhancements.
Answering a FORCE question on why the IAF which has chosen A330 MRTT as its tanker not gone for the aerial refuelling boom system (ARBS), Antonio said, “The IAF has not shown interest in Boom, and only wants fuselage and refuelling unit (FRU) and pods.” Considering that a tanker can carry 111tons of fuel, the IAF is looking at AAR of its fighters only which uses FRU and pods. Antonio confirmed that A330 MRTT has successfully tested with pods of Tornado, Typhoon, F-18 and Mirage-2000, and with FRU of Tornado, Typhoon, F-18, Hercules, Su-30, and A400m aircraft.
Antonio noted in his presentation that all five aircraft ordered by Australia have now been delivered and the RAAF has stated its intention to declare Initial Operating Capability very soon. Already, the aircraft, known in the RAAF as the KC-30A, has been flying intensively on both transport and refuelling missions and performed successfully in the international Exercise Pitch Black in 2012.
In the UK, through AirTanker, three aircraft are now in service with the RAF with three more to be delivered in 2013. AM is on track to deliver the ‘core fleet’ of nine to the UK and have them in squadron service by mid-2014, followed by further deliveries to get to the full fleet of 14. Availability and on-time performance for the tanker (called ‘Voyager’ in the UK) in service have been excellent with operational figures for the year till date showing an aircraft availability of 96 per cent, while AirTanker achieved an on time performance of almost 98 per cent — a level of service comparable to that of any commercial airline.
The Voyager is already playing an expanding role in shouldering the RAF’s transport burden, capitalising on its ability to carry some 290 passengers on a main-deck left free by the A330 MRTT’s unique feature of requiring no additional fuel tanks to conduct AAR.
Elsewhere, deliveries of the initial batch of three aircraft for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) will be completed in 2013, to be followed by the three aircraft ordered by the UAE in the coming months. The second batch of three for the RSAF, which were options that were subsequently firmed up, is due for delivery after a gap following the first batch.
The result is that in 2013 as many as 17 A330 MRTTs are expected to be in service with four air forces, marking the beginning of a transformation of the world of air-to-air refuelling across the globe. Those operators will benefit from the aircraft’s unprecedented load-carrying capability, optimised mixture of boom and hose refuelling, vastly improved crew operating conditions, and exceptional reliability and life-cycle costs originally designed to meet the fierce demands of commercial airlines.
However, the proven star from the AM stable is the C-295. According to Rafael Tentor, “The aircraft has consistently been the market leader in all sectors in which it is offered. By investing in continuous development of the aircraft we are committed to maintaining its leadership through the introduction of substantial operating benefits. We very much look forward to discussing the C-295W with existing and prospective customers.”
Announced at TBM-13, the C295W will feature winglets and an uprated engine.The new model will provide operators with enhanced performance in all flight phases but is particularly aimed at those operating at ‘hot and high’ airfields where payload increase in excess of 1,000kg is promised.
In intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles such as airborne early warning (AEW), the enhancements will increase endurance by 30-60 minutes and permit an operating altitude up to 2,000ft higher than now. The new features will also provide an overall reduction in fuel consumption of around four per cent depending on configuration and conditions.
The C-295W, assembled in Seville is being offered to the market from now on and will be the standard version of the aircraft in all versions from the fourth quarter of 2014. Certification is expected in second quarter of 2014.
AM has expressed its’ committing to the C-295W following flight-trials with winglets fitted to its company development aircraft which showed positive results for a weight penalty of only around 90kg. The engines are the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127 turboprops which power all versions of the C-295. New procedures recently certified by Canada and Spain permit operation in the climb and cruise phases at higher power settings at the discretion of the operator. As well as improved hot and high performance, the procedure improves operation over very high terrain such as the Andes or Himalaya mountains with only a minor influence on maintenance cost.
The attractiveness of C-295W is predicated on the fact that the basic platform, the C-295 is a new generation, very robust and reliable, and highly versatile tactical airlifter able to carry up to nine tonnes of payload or up to 71 personnel, at a maximum cruise speed of 260 kt /480 km/h. Fitted with a retractable landing gear and a pressurised cabin, it can cruise at altitudes up to 25,000 ft, while retaining remarkable short take-off & landing (STOL) performance from unprepared short, soft and rough airstrips, as well as excellent low level flight characteristics. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127G turboprop engines, the C-295 provides excellent manoeuvrability, outstanding hot and high performance, low fuel consumption and consequently a very long endurance of up to 11 hours in the air.
First delivered in 2001, the C-295 is a developed version of the well-known CN235 with many component upgrades, and offers greater capacity and range. Its’ simple systems design and robustness, its proven in service reliability, excellent flying qualities, and great versatility, as well as its remarkable transport capabilities make it the most efficient ‘workhorse’ with the lowest fuel burn, as well as the best operating and maintenance costs in its category. The civil and military certification of the C295 ensures compliance with international airworthiness regulations and safety standards, including the stringent FAR 25 requirements.
Being 12.7 m/ 4 ft 8 inches long, the C-295 has the longest unobstructed cabin in its class. It can accommodate up to 71 seats, offering a much higher personnel carrying capability than its competitors in this segment. For the same reason, it can carry much more palletised cargo (up to five 88 inch x 108 inch standard HCU-6E pallets) with direct off-loading through its rear ramp door.
The robustness and versatility of the C-295 make it the ideal platform for any type of military or ‘civic’ operations for the benefit of society. The aircraft performs any type of mission: from personnel, troop and bulky/palletised cargo transportation to casualty evacuation, communication and logistic duties, search and rescue, surveillance and control, homeland security, or certified air-dropping, It can be rapidly reconfigured between these roles, thus reducing the risk exposure when operating in hostile environments. A key to the aircraft’s unique patrol and surveillance capabilities is the AM designed Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS) which integrates, controls and displays the mission sensors, enhancing mission awareness and facilitating decision making.
The C295 can also be used for casualty or medical evacuation (casevac or medevac) using either basic litters or mobile intensive care units (ICU) with life support equipment.
When fitted with the FITS, the C-295 is ideal for surveillance (ISR) and control activities. These include anti-terrorism, border control and homeland security operations, amongst others.
The C-295 is also available in an ‘anti-submarine warfare’ (ASW) version. Derived from the Surveillance and Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) version of the C-295, the C-295 ASW is equipped with a tactical system proven during MPA/ASW missions, and under-wing stations to carry weapons and other stores. It represents a modern, risk-free and much more efficient alternative to older generation veterans such as the P-3 Orion or the Bréguet Atlantic, while its’ operating and maintenance costs are significantly lower. This version is already in service with one operator.
AM is now developing an Airborne Early Warning & Command (AEW) version of its C-295. The primary sensor of the AEW&C to be fitted into the six metre/ 20 ft rotodome, will be the IAI/ELTA 4th Generation Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar with integrated IFF. The C-295 AEW&C is to provide high quality 360 degree surveillance, creating in real-time an integrated Air and Maritime Situation Picture and Electronic Order of Battle. The AEW&C Situation Picture is to be shared with friendly forces via Network Centric data links. A C-295 fitted with a rotodome demonstrator has been conducting flight trials from Airbus Military’s Seville facility since early June 2011.
Probably, the most talked about AM product was the A400M, to which a whole day was devoted. In addition to presentations, visiting journalists were given a ride in the aircraft. Having flown in Soviet/Russian transport aircraft with the IAF, FORCE has little hesitation is saying that A400M had a smooth ascent and was relatively noise-free; two attributes that set it as a class apart.
The A400M was launched in 2003 to respond to the combined needs of seven European Nations grouped within OCCAR (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Spain, Turkey and the UK), with Malaysia joining in 2005. This is one of the major reasons for its extreme versatility. Its maiden flight took place on 11 December 2009.
The A400M can perform three very different types of duties: tactical and strategic missions directly to the site of action, as well as being able to serve as a ‘tanker’. Powered by four unique counter-rotating Europrop International (EPI) TP400 turboprop power-plants, the A400M offers a wide flight envelope in terms of both speed and height. It is the ideal airlifter to fulfil the diverse requirements of nations around the globe in terms of military, humanitarian and any other ‘civic’ missions for the benefit of society.
The A400M thus can perform missions which previously required two — or more — different types of aircraft, and which even then provided an imperfect solution. Its fuselage external width of 5.64 metres is equal to that of the A330/A340 wide-body aircraft. The inside usable width of four metres, height of four metres and usable length of nearly 18m allows it to carry numerous items of outsize cargo including, for example, an NH-90 or a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, or two Stryker infantry carrier vehicles (ICV) of 17 tonnes each for military purposes. It can also carry a 25 tonne semi-articulated truck with a 6m container, or a rescue boat, or large lifting devices, such as excavators or mobile cranes needed to assist in disaster relief.
Furthermore, the A400M is the only airlifter that can fly these items directly to the site of the action thanks to its unique landing characteristics. With its 12-wheel main landing gear designed for operations from stone, gravel or sand strips, its efficient absorption of shock-loads into the airframe structure, and its minimised risk of foreign object damage, the A400M is able to land on, and take-off from, short, soft and rough unpaved airstrips meeting up to the CBR4 standard. These characteristics allow it to ensure, for example, that swift humanitarian aid can arrive on the spot in the very short timeframe needed after a disaster.
Once on the ground, the A400M is designed for very rapid and autonomous cargo unloading or loading without any specialised ground support equipment. Fitted with an on-board 32 tonne powered winch and an optional five tonne crane, the cargo hold is optimised for single loadmaster operation from a computerised workstation, where the loadmaster can pre-plan loading from a loads data base. So, by minimising the time on the ground, the A400M’s systems also reduce the aircraft’s vulnerability to hostile action.
The type’s low speed characteristics make the A400M ideal for dropping supplies from low altitude. The A400M can assure a very rapid and direct response to any occurrence, making it the ideal tactical airlifter.
Thanks to its new technologies, the A400M has the ability to fly distances up to 4,700nm at a cruising altitude up to 37,000 ft, and at a speed of up to Mach 0.72 — very similar to that of a jet-powered airlifter. This gives it the potential for strategic/logistic missions.
Flying faster and higher, it can respond more rapidly to crises, because greater distances can be flown in a single crew duty-day. It is hence much more efficient than its predecessors. And as it can fly higher, it can cruise above turbulence, resulting in less fatigue for the crews, and passengers or troops alike.
Its fly-by-wire controls and related flight envelope protection facilitate the task of the crew and above all, enable a pilot, with one single and simple input on the control stick, to extract the optimum performance from the aircraft, for example in case of an escape manoeuvre, without running the risk of stalling or over-stressing the airframe.
Being able to fly fast and at high altitudes, it is also an ideal tanker aircraft to refuel military fast jets (fighters) and other large aircraft at speeds of up to 422 kt true air speed (TAS) at 25,000ft. But because of its low speed performance, it can equally well refuel helicopters at 110kt. Refuelling can be done either through two underwing refuelling pods or through a centre-line fuselage refuelling unit. Its built-in air-to-air refuelling capability allows it to be rapidly reconfigured to become a tanker. It can therefore be easily adapted to rapidly changing operational scenarios, being able to perform very different types of missions, as needed. This adaptability is unique to the A400M, which can itself also be refuelled in flight.
The A400M excels in the para-trooping role, being able to drop from both high and low altitudes, (as high as 40,000 ft for Special Forces’ operations, and as low as 15ft for low level load deliveries). It can carry 116 fully equipped Para-troops, who can jump two at a time from the ramp or through the Paratroop side doors. This simultaneous jumping capability results from the aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft and allows the teams to arrive on the ground closer together and hence to be operational faster.
Finally, the A400M has been specifically designed for low detectability, low vulnerability and high survivability, giving it excellent self-protection.
During the Paris Air Show in June, the A400M performed a spectacular test of a key defensive system, as its first production example comes within less than a month of delivery to the French Air Force. With clean and minimised infra-red signature engines, highly responsive fly-by-wire flight controls, four independent control computers, damage tolerant controls, and comprehensive optional defensive aids and cockpit armouring , the A400M claims to be ‘hard to find, hard to hit and hard to kill’.
As for its ‘down-time’, the A400M is conceived to be the most reliable airlifter ever. It needs only 84 days of scheduled downtime maintenance in 12 years. By using proven Airbus commercial design concepts and tools, its availability benefits from high component reliability.
Overall, the versatile A400M can do the job of three aircraft in one, always able to do more with less. Being bigger, it can carry more payload in fewer flights. Being faster, it can fly longer distances and missions in the same time. In summary, with fewer aircraft, the operator can do more, ensuring greatest investment and cost effectiveness.