PARIS --- An Egyptian order for Airbus A400M military transport aircraft is looking increasingly plausible and Spanish media confirming initial reports of such a sale say that up to 12 aircraft could be involved.
The sale to Egypt was first reported by AndaluciaInformaciones.es, a Spanish news website, which said that Pilar Albiac, the Airbus DS executive vice-president for operations, told the Airbus DS board that Egypt had made its first order during a meeting at the Seville plant, where the A400M is assembled,
Albiac did not say how many aircraft Egypt had ordered, but on Nov. 24 the Spanish outlet, quoting unidentified aviation industry sources, said the order will cover twelve aircraft at a cost of €150 million each. That puts the total value at €1.8 billion, excluding any specific capabilities or equipment that Egypt may require, whose cost would increase total price.
Airbus has not confirmed that a sale has been concluded, but a mid-November visit by Egyptian Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi to Airbus’ Seville-San Pablo plant is seen as another corroborating factor.
Another Spanish media outlet, Infodefensa.com, quoted an unidentified industry official as confirming the deal, but saying that “the number of aircraft is much exaggerated.” An Egyptian contract for that many aircraft “is not going to happen,” the official said.
Egypt currently operates 26 Lockheed C-130 Hercules, however, as well as 9 DHC-5 Buffalos and 24 Airbus C295, so an order for 12 A400Ms, no doubt paid for by Saudi Arabia, does not appear outsized.
Egypt also is said to be requesting early delivery, but this looks unlikely given that Airbus Defence and Space continues to lag behind scheduled deliveries to the A400M partner nations.
Such an order would go a long way to absorbing Spain’s excess order, as it has ordered 27 A400Ms to respect its original commitment but, in fact, requires only 13. The amended contract between partner nations, renegotiated when the program was reset in 2010, allows the re-sale of excess aircraft to third-party customers.
The sale is being handled very gingerly by Airbus because of fears the German government might veto supplying military equipment to a country whose military régime has been criticized for riding roughshod over democratic niceties.
The German government’s Federal Security Council is tasked with authorizing the export of military equipment on a case-b-case basis. Saudi Arabia, for example, was unable to buy up to 800 Leopard tanks because their hull is made in Germany. This veto also affected General Dynamics, whose Spanish unit SBS at Alcala de Guadaira (Sevilla), among others. The council has, however, recently authorized the sale of other equipment to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait.
Along with Egypt, other Arab country, Jordan, has joined the list of potential buyers of the A400M. Jordanian King Abdullah II, accompanied by Spain’s King Philip VI, saw a presentation of the aircraft in Getafe (Madrid) last week, and it is unlikely the two monarchs would have bothered were a sale not being discussed.
Another head of state who has been personally involved in a possible purchase is Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who also inspected the plane in person during a visit to Spain. Mexico already operates 22 Airbus C295 light transport aircraft.
The UAE is the fourth country with which Airbus is negotiating, with more immediate prospects. This confirms that the accident last May 9 of an A400M in Seville is not affecting export prospects.