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Military cargo plane to be delivered to Turkey in 2013

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News | 5/18/2011 12:00:00 AM | ÜMİT ENGİNSOY

The first of nine large military cargo planes Turkey plans to buy from Airbus will be delivered to Ankara in 2013, a company official has said.

The first of the nine A400M large military cargo planes Turkey plans to buy from the European Airbus Military consortium, a multinational defense industry program that has faced huge problems and delays, will be delivered to Ankara in 2013, a company official has said.

"The program is back on track, and Turkey will receive the first plane in 2013," the official has told Hürriyet Daily News. “The last of the planes will be delivered in 2018.”

The Airbus A400M is a multinational four-engine, long-range turboprop military transport aircraft. It was designed by Airbus Military as an air-lifter with both tactical and strategic capabilities.

The aircraft's maiden flight took place in December 2009 in Seville, Spain. The A400M is undergoing flight-testing. Orders are for about 170 aircraft from eight nations.

Headquartered in Madrid, Airbus Military's A400M program originally was launched in the early 1980s. But varying requirements, the complications of international politics and industrial work share caused slow progress. Also the planned $80 million unit price increased considerably as the orders decreased, and at some point, the program's future even became uncertain.

However, it was announced in 2010 that the project would remain in place. On Nov. 5, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey finalized the contract and Malaysia said it would also buy some four planes. Now the program is at least three years behind schedule, but is progressing.

"After many delays, the latest timetable seems to be acceptable and reasonable," said one Turkish procurement official.

Under the program, the Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TAI, Turkey main aerospace company, and a number of other Turkish firms are taking part in the aircraft's production.

At the time when the A400M's future became uncertain, Turkey considered alternative purchases of the U.S. C-130Js, the European CN-295s or the Italian C-27s, but it decided to stick to the plane as the A400M program went back to a degree of normalcy.

In the shorter term and as a stop-gap solution, Turkey will buy six U.S.-made C-130 Hercules transport aircraft from Saudi Arabia. The United States, as the maker of the aircraft, last month approved the sale to Turkey by Saudi Arabia of the six C-130E military cargo planes.

One industry source suggested that the unit price of the Saudi planes was less than $10 million. The Saudi planes are expected to arrive in Turkey later this year.

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