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UAE to get Airbus air-to-air refuelling plane by year-end

posted on 22/02/2011: 1595 views

The first of three A330 MRTT aircraft from Airbus Military will be delivered to the UAE by the end of this year, said Didier Vernet, Head of Market Development for Airbus Military. The two other aircraft will be delivered next year, he said.

The A330 MRTT has air-to-air refuelling capabilities and can airlift four fighters with all necessary support equipment.

Saudi Arabia had also put in an order for six A330 MRTTs whose delivery will start next year.

Vernet did not make a comment when asked if any of the current customers are looking into making more orders on the MRTT. "We are always in discussion with everyday," he said.

Two other countries have also ordered the MRTT — the United Kingdom with an order of 14 aircraft and Australia with an order of five aircraft. The first delivery will be made this year to Australia.

The A400M, which has load capabilities and can go at high speed and high altitude, is currently undergoing flight tests. So far, 174 A400M aircraft have been ordered by eight countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

The first aircraft is on schedule to be delivered to France at the end of 2012, which has ordered 50 aircraft. According to Vernet, the global prospects for the A400M is about 400 aircraft over the next 30 years. When asked about the prospects for the aircraft in the Middle East and GCC region, Vernet said Airbus Military would be "looking between 50 to 100 aircraft prospects."

Nations all over the world will need to replace their older aircraft with new ones, he said. Vernet said that after the 174 aircraft are delivered to their existing customers, they would be able to deliver two to three aircraft per month as of 2015. The A400M has undergone testing under extreme cold weather conditions and will be going through testing under extreme hot weather conditions in Abu Dhabi in July or August of this year, Vernet said.

Military transport: Mena market opening up

Airbus sees demand for 50 to 100 of its A400M military transports in the Middle East and North Africa over the next three decades, said Didier Vernet, head of market development at Airbus Military.

"We have real expressions of interest from different countries," said Vernet in an interview at a military trade show in Abu Dhabi. "We have some good prospects here." There are several countries in the Middle East and North Africa that need planes to transport heavy equipment, he said.

Airbus Military will switch its focus to export markets after fulfilling the A400M needs of France, Germany and the other five nations that financially backed the plane, said Vernet. The planemaker began serial production of the A400M at the start of this year after cost-overruns delayed the project.

The first four A400Ms will be completed in 2013, with eight more scheduled for the following year. By 2016, Airbus plans to produce two a month and Airbus Military will have the capacity to boost that rate to 2.5 planes if necessary. Airbus Military, which also makes refuelling planes, is competing against Boeing to supply the US Air Force with 179 tankers based on Airbus' A330-200. It plans to deliver a refuelling tanker based on the earlier A310 model to the UAE by the end of this year, and another two in 2012, Vernet said, he said.

As Airbus' parent company EADS seeks to increase its presence in the Middle East, it is considering agreements with the UAE that would allow that country to manufacture some military plane parts, he said. Airbus already manufactures components of its commercial aircraft in Abu Dhabi — Bloomberg


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