A quick look at the biggest stories of the week. In Europe, Spain and France made crucial decisions regarding some major airborne platforms…
By: Michael Barber
Spain A400M Orders Officially Cut in Half
The ongoing saga of European A400M deliveries continues in Spain. Significant delays continue to impact the confidence surrounding European A400M buys, but Avascent believes that the projects will be seen through to completion, spurred on by French desire to keep its industrial base strong. In December 2015, the Spanish Air Force officially announced that they would only acquire an initial base of 14 planes by 2022—thirteen short of the 27 planes ordered in the initial contract. No decisions on the remaining 13 aircraft will be made until after that date. To review, Spain originally signed a deal for 27 A400M military transport planes to replace its aging fleet of transport aircraft in a $16.3b dollar multi-national European deal (about $5.7b for Spain), with delivery planned through just 2020. It is increasingly likely that Spain will operate only 14 of the 27 Airbus A400Ms it is committed to buying and will try to sell the other 13 to other countries– or not buy them at all.
France Extends Mirage 2000D
In December 2015, the French defense ministry approved a service life extension program (SLEP) for at least 45 of its 71 Mirage 2000D strike fighters, at an estimated cost of 160 million euros ($174.87 mil). There is an option for ten more to be upgraded later, and Avascent believes that 55 planes will eventually be upgraded. The upgrade and life extension of France’s Mirage fighters serves a dual purpose. Firstly, as Rafale deliveries have been cut from 180 to 152, it will allow the French defense ministry to meet goals set in the 2013 defense white paper requiring 225 planes to be in active combat service in 2019. Secondly, Mirage fighters have proved useful in operations in Africa in the Middle East, and the SLEP allows the aircraft to be in active service until at least 2035. Specific upgrades and associated contractors have not been chosen yet—but an internal French debate is brewing. The French Air Force prefers a more robust upgrade package, while the DGA prefers a cheaper option. A few upgrades have been agreed upon, specifically an improvement of the technological obsolescence of the plane’s radar and avionics, an adaptation for air-to-ground gunnery and an integration of MICA infrared guided missiles for self-protection.