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Incumbents, Newcomers Battle for Airlifter Orders
This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.
The next two years could see a sea change in the shape of the worldwide airlift market, as new entrants try to secure their global positions while incumbents aim to keep production lines open.
At one end of the spectrum are the Airbus Military A400M and Embraer KC-390, newcomers to the larger aircraft market traditionally dominated by the U.S. Both are ramping up their export focus. On the other end are U.S. players -- Boeing, looking to snag a few more C-17 orders to preserve its production line, and Lockheed Martin, eying additional C-130J sales but also crafting palletized modifications.
Airbus Military sees strong potential this year. After weak sales last year, Antonio Rodriguez-Barberan, the company's senior vice president, expects to sign deals for 30 or more aircraft before year's end -- more than 20 orders have already been booked. "We are in a position to recover from the market slump," Barberan says. Airbus Military forecasts a market for 1,250 light and medium transport aircraft over the next 30 years -- it has sold 108 C295s and 275 CN235s so far.
Alenia Aermacchi also likes the potential for more business this year, after securing a deal with Australia for 10 C-27s that will help sustain production through 2015. Additional deals in the making could keep production alive until 2018-19, CEO Giuseppe Giordo says.
Alenia has booked orders for 89 C-27s, with 49 delivered. Giordo notes that near-term production slots remain available. Alenia Aermacchi will receive around $500 million under the initial Australian program, in which the C-27J bested the C295.
At the higher end of the market, new bookings may be slower to emerge. Still, Airbus Military has begun the push to start securing A400M exports. The aircraft maker was holding off until the program had stabilized following several years of turmoil, but with the first aircraft delivery to the French air force slated to occur by year's end, courting of new clients has commenced in earnest.
Embraer will start putting the KC-390 export operation into high gear next year; first flight is slated for 2014.The company sees a potential market -- sales to countries where there is not already a domestic competitor -- of around 700 aircraft through 2025.
With the U.S. Air Force having received 216 of its 224 C-17s, Boeing is now executing a plan to reduce the production rate from 15 per year to 10 without a price increase. The company has been on an aggressive international marketing campaign to keep the C-17 final assembly line at Long Beach, Calif., alive and orders have materialized. Five C-17s have been delivered to Australia, with a sixth order expected soon. Qatar has received two and still has unused options for two more. The sixth aircraft for the United Arab Emirates was delivered in late June. The U.K. has accepted eight C-17s; Canada has taken four and other NATO members three.
Lockheed Martin recently spiked C-130J production to 36 per year and is planning to level out at 24, says Jim Grant, who heads up business development for the company's mobility systems. Of the 224 C-130Js ordered by the U.S. government, 164 have been delivered, Sowers says. This includes 112 for the Air Force; together with legacy E and H models, the Air Force operates 551 C-130s. Included in the order are 47 KC-130Js for the Marine Corps and six HC-130Js for the Coast Guard.