Saturday, November 14, 2009

Malaysia's A400M to remain at US$177 mil each

MALAYSIA will not have to fork out extra money for the four Airbus Military A400M air-lifters that it signed for in 2005. This means that the Malaysian A400M will cost around RM600 million each, some RM43 million cheaper than the aircraft list price. The list price of the A400M is US$190 million (RM643 million).

It had been speculated that purchasing countries may have to fork out more money for the A400M than originally envisaged due to the delays to the programme and the reduced number of planes to be manufactured.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Malay Mail on Wednesday that the matter was conveyed to him during meetings with officials from the Airbus Military during the Paris Air Show in June.

The government and Airbus Military signed the RM2.5 billion contract at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (Lima) 2005, for the supply and delivery of the four A400M air-lifters.

The A400M is designed to offer an increase in range and air-lift capacity compared with the current Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) main air-lifter the Hercules C-130.

The A400M is capable of performing strategic operations: long range, large capacity, high-cruise speed, tactical missions rough, short and soft-field performance, autonomous ground operation, low speed/low level operations, aerial delivery and “in-theatre” tanking operations as well as receiving and dispensing fuel.

Ahmad Zahid said the first aircraft for RMAF was expected to be delivered in 2015, two years behind schedule.

Asked about the delays that had blighted the A400M project, Ahmad Zahid said the first prototype was expected to fly by year-end and the first aircraft was to be delivered to the French air force within the next three years.

Ahmad Zahid said it appeared that the project was going in the right direction for the RMAF. At the signing ceremony for the four air-lifters in 2005, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who was then defence minister and deputy prime minister, said the new aircraft would supplement the fleet of 15 C-130 Hercules RMAF was operating.

The Hercules, he said, would continue its role until it was no longer economical to operate. As part of the offset package, Composites Technology Research Malaysia Sdn Bhd received work packages worth some RM1 billion for the design and manufacture of A400M airframe components to be delivered worldwide.

The A400M has been bedeviled by cost overruns and delivery delays over its massive turbo-prop engines. The first planes were to have been delivered at the end of this year, but the programme is running at least three years late.

The British government, one of the founding members of the A400M project, is expected to decide soon, whether to continue its participation in the programme soon.Meanwhile, Ahmad Zahid confirmed that the ministry will continue to fund the RMAF Hercules maintenance

He said the Hercules remained an important asset despite its age. He said some of the older Hercules aircraft may need an upgrade but the cost was cheaper than buying new aircraft. RMAF operates 15 Hercules aircraft, some of which have been in service since the late 70s.


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