Updated 03 September
The Republic of Kazakhstan has placed an order for two Airbus A400M aircraft and becomes the ninth operator together with Germany, France, United Kingdom, Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Malaysia and Luxembourg.
With delivery of the first aircraft scheduled in 2024, the contract includes a complete suite of maintenance and training support. Together with the agreement a Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed to collaborate on Maintenance and Overhaul services and with a first step of creating a local C295 maintenance centre.
”The A400M will become the cornerstone of Kazakhstan’s tactical and strategic airlifting operations,” said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. “This new export contract brings the total number of A400M orders to 176 aircraft, a figure that we expect to increase in the near future. With more than 100 aircraft delivered and 100,000 flight hours in operation, the A400M has proven its capabilities, reaching a state of maturity that many potential customers were waiting for.”
“The A400M's key performance during recent evacuation missions in Afghanistan have demonstrated many of the real capabilities of this great aircraft. Now this new export contract just confirms we have the right platform to offer,” Airbus Head of Military Aircraft Jean-Brice Dumont said on social media.
"The new order from Kazakhstan is excellent news for the A400M. The airlifter has been operating with great success in Asia Pacific since the Royal Malaysian Air Force took delivery of the fleet in early 2015," John Pelissier, Head of Asia-Pacific, Airbus Defence and Space. "The A400M is well regarded for its ability to fly higher, faster and further, and has been well-adapted in a wide range of missions in this region. Strong interest is building up in the Asia Pacific where we see potential for more orders of this multipurpose aircraft supporting the military forces and humanitarian operations in this region.”
ADM Comment: The sale of the two A400Ms to Kazakhstan represents the first export order for the aircraft since Malaysia committed to four aircraft in 2005 and is a welcome boost for Airbus Military, taking total sales to 176 aircraft.
The recent evacuation of Kabul has no doubt left many coalition partners, including Australia, wishing for more airlift capability and it's worth noting that the A400M is the only heavy airlift aircraft currently in production in the western world. Production of the only other aircraft, the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III, ended in 2015.
The RAF's 70 Sqn flew the A400M into Kabul as part of the UK's Operation Pitting to evacuate UK citizens and refugees and tweeted: "And this queen truly came of age. Not a single mission was dropped with capacity and capability standing the most difficult tests with the support of our FHQ and Airbus team realised. EVS (Enhanced Vision System) a particular highlight."
The A400M is smaller than the C-17A but larger than the Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules and Embraer KC-390 Millennium and should cargo bay volume be an important factor, especially in the light of the lessons to be learned from the Kabul airlift, it is arguably a candidate for Defence's Medium Airlift Capability (C-130J-30 replacement) program later this decade. The recent Force Structure 2020 plan foresees an ‘expanded’ airlift capability to replace the current Hercules fleet, with up to $13.2 billion of funding from around 2029.