You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

RAF Nato row after 'totally unacceptable' engine problems keep £2.6bn fleet on the ground

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 6 days ago Dominic Nicholls
The Airbus A400M military transporter takes off on December 11, 2009 in Sevilla. The troubled Airbus A400M military transporter, which has faced severe cost overruns and technical problems, carried out its first test flight at Seville, Spain.  AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images) © 2009 AFP The Airbus A400M military transporter takes off on December 11, 2009 in Sevilla. The troubled Airbus A400M military transporter, which has faced severe cost overruns and technical problems, carried out its first test flight at Seville, Spain. AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)

A row erupted at a recent Nato conference over the RAF's new £2.6billion transporter planes as it has emerged engine problems mean just two of 20-strong fleet are able to fly at any one time.

The delay in bringing into service the new A400M plane for the RAF and other partner nations led to a major disagreement between Airbus, the aircraft manufacturer, and Nato Ministers. 

Stuart Andrew, the MoD’s Minister for Procurement, said that after an “extremely robust meeting” the problems with the A400M aircraft should be fixed by next year.  

Video: Airbus A400M Shows Off Impressive 'Backflip Loops' at Air Show (Storyful)

Replay Video
UP NEXT
1
Cancel
UP NEXT
UP NEXT

Concerns have been raised over the new aircraft since its inception in 2003. A recent Defence Select Committee was told that engineering staff at RAF Brize Norton called the aircraft “a dog” and that on occasion only two out of the fleet of 20 aircraft were serviceable.

In 2015 one A400M aircraft crashed in Spain during a test flight, killing four crew members. A software fault, since rectified, was found to be the cause of the crash. 

In Parliament this week Mark Francois, a former Defence Minister, said: “We have paid £2.6 billion for an aircraft with appalling reliability, bad engines, a virtually broken gearbox, problem propellers, massive vibration problems and an inability to deliver paratroops.”

Gallery: Most powerful military nations of 2019 (Photo Services)

The former Minister of Defence asked what could be done about the “emerging procurement disaster”.

Mr Andrew replied: “The performance has been totally unacceptable.  We are now expecting EuroProp International, the engine manufacturer, to be more empowered to negotiate the support solutions that we need. 

“Airbus Defence and Space has also been held to account, but, following the problems with the engines and gear boxes, those parts will be replaced on each of the aircraft by the middle of next year.

An RAF Lockheed Tristar transport plane at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.   (Photo by Tim Ireland/PA Images via Getty Images) © PA Images An RAF Lockheed Tristar transport plane at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. (Photo by Tim Ireland/PA Images via Getty Images)

The MoD confirmed that there will be no additional cost to the taxpayer and that all reliability improvements will be funded by industry.

The RAF version of the A400M - called Atlas - is due to replace the current fleet of C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft. 

With a capacity of 35 tonnes and a 2,000 nautical mile range it is far more capable and versatile than the ageing Hercules. As it is fitted with propellers rather than jet engines it can operate from dirt strips and unprepared runways and can fly up to 400 knots. 

a large crowd of people at a park: Large crowds in front of an Airbus A400M during the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford on July 12, 2014. © Tim Ireland/Getty Images Europe Large crowds in front of an Airbus A400M during the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford on July 12, 2014.

Although the larger C-17 Globemaster can carry around 70 tonnes of supplies, it has to fly from established air bases, limiting its utility in disaster relief or covert operations.

Britain has bought 22 aircraft, with 20 delivered so far, at a cost of £2.6 billion. The planned in-service date of 2009 slipped more than six years. 

Germany has bought 53 aircraft, with 30 delivered so far. The Telegraph understands the Luftwaffe sought to pull out of the programme and not take the remaining 23, but was convinced by Britain to stay in.

a propeller plane sitting on top of a runway: An A400M in service with the German Luftwaffe showing the eight-blade variable pitch fully feathering propellers on the aircraft. © Steve Thorne/Getty Images Europe An A400M in service with the German Luftwaffe showing the eight-blade variable pitch fully feathering propellers on the aircraft.

The latest serviceability figures for the RAF’s A400M, from February this year, showed that 12 of the 20 were in the ‘Forward Fleet’, which comprises serviceable aircraft and those temporarily unavailable due to minor works or other technical inspections that can arise on a day-to-day basis.

The number of aircraft available varies day-to-day according to normal flight management activities and general serviceability.

Although assembled in Seville, Spain, the A400M is an international project with parts built across Europe. 

a airplane that is parked on the side of a vehicle: A crew member looks out the window of a RAF Airbus A400M as it arrives at RAF Fairford. July 7, 2016. © Matt Cardy/Getty Images Europe A crew member looks out the window of a RAF Airbus A400M as it arrives at RAF Fairford. July 7, 2016.

The carbon-composite wings - the biggest ever on a military aircraft - were designed and built in Filton, near Bristol, and numerous other subsystems including the software which controls the aircraft came from Britain.

A total of 174 of the aircraft have been ordered so far, sustaining 8,000 UK jobs. 

MSN are empowering Women In Sport this summer. Find out more about our campaign and the charity fighting to promote the transformational and lifelong rewards of exercise for women and girls in the UK here.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Telegraph

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon