Airbus Says Oft-Delayed A400M Military Plane ‘Worth Waiting For’

  • CEO Enders says planemaker is working ‘intensely’ on fixes
  • Germany is considering leasing or buying alternative aircraft

Airbus Group SE sought to ease mounting tensions over the A400M military-transport plane, vowing to find fixes for the latest issues as Germany considers leasing or even buying aircraft from competitors to meet the country’s needs.

The plane is “worth waiting for,” Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders said Wednesday at a press conference at the Berlin Air Show. Together with suppliers, Airbus is working “intensely” on resolving production issues and is seeking solutions in the foreseeable future.

Germany, the largest customer for the A400M, has grown increasingly frustrated with delays, which threaten to hamper plans to expand its military role globally. The country has thus far received just three planes, and a schedule that called for nine deliveries in 2016 is in question amid technical problems including fuselage cracks and faulty engine gearboxes. The A400M -- first ordered by Germany, six other European nations and Turkey back in 2003 -- is already more than four years late and 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) over budget. Germany currently relies on more than 40-year-old planes to meet its needs.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has asked Airbus to outline the problems with the A400M and the length of time each fix will take. While Germany still has a fleet of Lockheed-built Transalls, or C160s, the planes, developed in the 1960s, are old and expensive to repair. The three A400Ms it does have are still unable to meet military requirements such as refueling helicopters or returning fire when under attack.

While Enders declined to comment on delivery specifics, he said he expects the A400M to ultimately be a success for European defense programs and attract demand from other countries as well.

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