back to article New RAF transport plane is 'Euro-w*nking makework project'

A peer and former defence minister has described the A400M military transport plane - which is being bought by the cash-strapped UK armed forces for a secret but outrageous amount of money - as a "Euro-wanking make-work project" in the written Parliamentary record. Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders and the A400M Programme …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Reliability Of Eurofighter vs. F-22

    F-22 crashes: 4 to date

    Eurofighter crashes: 2 to date

    The EFA has been produced in slightly larger numbers than the F-22, has longer operational history but the *absolute* crash count is only 50 % of the F-22. How do you spin this Lewis ?

    Also, EFA already faces the SU-34 in Lithuania, while the F-22 does not dare to do that.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Richard 120

        As Lewis is "by default" in Euro-bashing mode, I decided it is time to do the same with American Technology in General. That's called "Tit For Tat" in your language, I guess.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      What that got to do with it?

      Not only has this post got nothing to do with the article which makes no mention of the F-22 or the Eurofighter, but it's a straw man argument in itself, since I don't ever remembering reading Lewis advocating the F-22 over the Euro fighter - ever.

      The F-22 and Eurofighter are different beasts entirely and even in the US the F-22 is seen as a failed project, not even the Americans want it any more. However the failure of the F22 doesn't make the Eurofighter a success. It's still an overpriced waste of money because in all recent theatres of war we've been fighting countries with no competent airforce to speak of and therefore no need for an air superiority fighter in great numbers. What we need is an updated ground attack capability, a task for which the Eurofighter was not designed and is barely capable of.

    3. asdf

      both worthless pork for the war pigs

      Bets neither aircraft shoot down a baddie in the next 25 years. Now if only we could figure out a way to counter that super sophisticated technology the AK47 and RPG which is killing both Brits and Yanks plenty.

      1. Dave Bell

        A possible counter to the Kalashnikov

        Short Magazine Lee Enfield.

        Even if it has to be in 5.56mm

      2. Anonymous Coward

        @asdf: EFA IS Already Worth It's Cost

        ..ask the RAF what they use to intercept the Tu 95 Bombers coming down the Norwegian coast, loaded with supersonic distance weapons (which can carry nasty nukes).

        ..ask the Estonians, Lithuanians, the Polish and basically everybody else east of Germany whether they prefer to be protected by Luftwaffe F4s or Luftwaffe Eurofighters (in addition to their aging MiGs the Russkies know very well (b/c they build the RADAR themselves)). I am sure they are really happy their airspace is protected by EFA.

        The opponent is the SU-34. Do a little research and then think about your statements. Nobody (outside the Anglosaxon world at least) wants war, but neither do we want to be bullied by the Kremlin's airforce. I guess EFA saves YOUR personal sitting flesh.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    The Glorious C-17

    ... had numerous cost overruns, reliability problems and never met initial specs. The "austere runway capability" remains highly doubtful.


    "A January 1995 GAO report revealed that while the original C-17 budget was US$41.8 billion for 210 aircraft, the 120 aircraft already ordered at that point had already cost US$39.5 billion.[26]"

    "In April 1994, the C-17 program was still over budget, and did not meet weight, fuel burn, payload and range specifications. It also failed several key criteria and tests that had been conducted to evaluate its airworthiness.[20][21][22] Airflow over the aircraft caused problems with parachutes and there were other technical problems with mission software, landing gear, etc.[23]"

    1. Chris 244
      Thumb Down

      seeing as how we are quoting Wikipedia...

      Regarding the A400M:

      "The first test flight, originally scheduled for Q1 2008, was postponed ... early January 2008 that continued development problems with the engines had resulted in a delay to Q2 2008 before the first engine test flights on a C-130 testbed aircraft. The first flight of the aircraft...had again been postponed..."

      "On 9 January 2009, EADS announced that the first delivery has been postponed until at least 2012. EADS also indicated that it wanted to renegotiate "certain technical characteristics" of the aircraft."

      "the A400M is €5 billion over budget, 3 to 4 years behind schedule..."

      "the aircraft is overweight by 12 tons and may not be able to achieve a critical performance requirement..." "...insufficient to carry a modern armored infantry fighting vehicle..."

      Et cetera et cetera.

    2. dogged
      Thumb Down


      it's now available and operational with high reliability at £70m/unit.

      What's your point?

      More pertinently, what's your connection to Aitrbus?

    3. John 174

      Talk about old news....

      15 year old news, to be exact. Lewis is using the PROVEN cost, payload, and range figures in his argument, which include the shortfalls you mentioned.

      Those cost overruns are history and the CURRENT, fixed price is half that (of course, THAT number is just a guess) of the A400. It's also had a long time in service to work out bugs. Lewis is spot on here.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What we need to fix this...

    ... apparently is a jolly old world war, forcing us to focus on what works for the least cost possible. Instead of creating make-work for the highest cost possible.

    Though I'd prefer if most of the fighting would happen on the North American continent instead of Europe because the USoA badly need that happening to them, just to give them a chance to grow up and stop creating havoc elsewhere just because they can.

    Then again if the choice is world war or no world war, I'll take the "non" any time. But it'd still be nice if governmental procurement, including military procurement, wasn't such a shameful affair.

    1. ian 22

      "Can't we all just get along?"

      Clearly not. However, wishing war on anyone is also clearly wrong.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Minor point of order

        Not wishing war on anyone. Thought I said so pretty clearly too. Iff such a thing would come to pass I'd prefer it passed over there because it migth cure them of their world-wide juvenile wanton meddling.

        I am concluding that apparently a war is what would at least provide a strong incentive to stop wasting all that money and instead try and conjure up some useful kit. The two wars in the middle east aren't cutting it... much. If you have better alternatives, do share.

    2. graeme leggett

      The last time that happened

      We let the US do nearly all the transport aircraft development and building for us because we were working flat out to put bombers and fighters into the air.

      End result. Post war most every airline in the world is operating DC-3/Dakotas and not Yorks or Lancastrians

    3. asdf

      the cnn phenomenon

      War is fun as long as you can just watch cool footage on CNN. Once you quit forcing the rich to risk their offspring as well you can count on a near constant state of war. No bid cost plus contracts are a lot tougher to come by in peace time.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love

    I love the lords, they do a fantastic job of keeping the media hungry children other wise known as MPs in line. The day we lose them is the day we're doomed to a completly crippled media driven popularity cult of a political system.

    1. Chris 22
      Thumb Up

      Quite true

      Much as there is much wrong with a bunch of out of touch old men with a tendency towards working whilst "tired after dinner" running the country they sadly really do seem to do a better job than the elected house....

      Which probably says a lot about what we've stuffed the commons full of.

  5. Hollerith 1

    Ford Focus

    The reasons we bought a Ford Focus was because it was a good little runner, every garage in the land could fix it, new parts were cheap, and if AA were called out, they would almost certainly have parts in their trucks.

    If i were in the armed forces, I would want something that cost little to run, was easy to fix and get parts for, and did the job.

    But obviously, if I were a Euro Govt minister, I would want to pour zillions into a Euro company so that I could hold my head high -- just as M&S still source 100% from UK suppliers, to support the Union Jack and to buy into patriotism as part of their brand.

    Oh, wait...

    1. MrCheese

      And there'd be nothing wrong with that

      If it weren't for the fact that any pan-european project has three times it's value skimmed off the top for something that rolls of the production line obsolate.

      And for an aircraft manufacturer to so massively misinterperate the costs of building it demonstrates that a hell of a lot of people in this project need a damn good sacking for sheer, mind-boggling idiocy.

      1. wim


        idiocy with greed and you ll be a lot closer

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Comparison of C-130, C17 and A400M

    According To Wikipedia:

    Criteria A400M C130* C17

    Range*Payload: 155kt*km 94,8kt*km 225k*t*km

    Max Speed: 780km/h 643km/h 818km/h

    Max Payload: 37t 22t 77,5t

    Refueling Cap: yes limited only receiver

    No Paratroopers: 116 64 102

    Austere Landing Cap: yes yes very limited


    Discussion: The claim that the A400M is a "slow turboprop" is clearly FUD. The C17 is just 5% faster than the A400M.

    Also, the A400M clearly has better payload*range product, because it uses the most powerful turboprop of the West, only being topped by the Russian Tu-95 turboprops. The latter a/c is also a quite formidable platform; turboprops are indeed very competitive.

    *"SuperHercules", apparently only existent on paper at the moment

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      And of course wikipedia is THE definitive source for stats and performance figures on highly technical projects like military aircraft. (sarcasm)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So think it implausible that the brand-new A400M performs better than the 50-year old C130 ? Even if Wikipedia is not perfect, the numbers are making sense to me.

        Can you come up with a better source ?

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wikipedia

        Actually, Wikipedia is probably not that bad: you've got a lot of information out there in various forms about aircraft, and there are a lot of people who are very interested in the subject matter for whom Wikipedia is a good place to pool their knowledge. Many of those people probably worked in the aerospace sector and know what they're talking about.

        Take a look at a selection of aircraft-related pages on Wikipedia and you'll see that the level of curation is a lot higher than the average page. Knee-jerk sneering at Wikipedia when the stuff in question probably comes from decent sources and involves knowledgeable contributors is a display of ignorance for the sake of fashion.

    2. Chris 244
      Thumb Down

      In theory, theory and practice are the same.

      "The aircraft is intended for use on short, soft landing strips and for long-range, cargo transport flights."

      There are a total of 3 test A400M aircraft, with a total of 400 hours flight time and none in actual service. Think it has much real-world testing taking off fully loaded from a crappy landing strip?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So, if this is all true - *why* are they spending hundreds of millions to retain work in the EU. These guys are not stupid, there must be a reason - that's why some analysis is required. For example, there may be a few hundred assembly jobs, but there wlll also be jobs created for EU suppliers for parts etc. Perhaps the business case stacks up ?

    Why are we dependent on US electronics ?

    The US are a long standing ally, however, it's good to have some level of independence.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Try landing a C17 on a dirt-track

    The A400M may not be as fast as a C17, or have its lifting-capacity, but it doesn't need a long tarmac runway to land or take off. Its demo at Fairford this year looked quite good.

    1. Reg Blank


      You mean the C-17 can't do what the RAAF does with theirs on a regular basis?

      Like flying into dirt fields in Northern Australia:

      Or flying combat missions into forward dirt airfields in Afghanistan in support of active operations:

      Your post would be funny if it wasn't so ignorant.

  9. Red Bren

    An unbelievably bad bargain for the British forces.

    So still a bargain then?

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge


      In the sense that a bargain is an exchange of goods or promise between parties. A bargain may be a saving when you're happy about it, which is why we refer to an exchange that favours us as a bargain in the vernacular, but a bargain can also favour the other side. The point is that a bargain is an exchange, a deal, a contract or settlement. A bad bargain is a bad bargain, it has no good sides merely because it's called a "bargain".

      1. Red Bren

        That's exactly what I meant!

        Honest :-)

        I'll get me coat.

  10. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Mixed fleet more expensive to run? Can we even buy C-17s and C-130s?

    Whilst Lewis always likes to highlight the lower purchase cost of Septic kit (where the cost of development has largely been shouldered by the US taxpayer), he carefully avoids considering operational costs. Whilst a mixed fleet of C-17s and C-130s may be a cheaper purchase (and that's "may be" as we don't have a UK buy price for them, just the one the US negotiated), operating two types of aircraft is more expensive than one as you need two sets of parts, two training courses for all the servicing crew, two sets of pilot training for the different planes (nowadays meaning two sets of simulators too), and usually two sets of Squadrons as we don't usually run mixed units in the modern RAF. Whilst Lewis talks about "commonality" with the US and other nations, it is not guaranteed that any nation even using C-130s will have the same engines or avionics pieces as we use whould we need to borrow a part, and even then we don't get them for free - if the friendly nation does decide it wants to give us a piece of kit (and there is no guarantee that a partner might even have the part in stock), we still have to pay them for it. So that might be of little advantage over the A400M, especially as we can ship any part worldwide in 24-hours by commercial means (think DHL) if required. Sure, DHL might not want to ship into Kandahar or any other warzone, but then we'll probably have a well-stocked forward base in any such area anyway, it's the places in between where we might have to land a faulty transport that we would need to ship parts and servicing crew to (and servicing crew can go by commercial flights too).

    And then there's possibility that we might not even be able to order more C-17s and C-130s for many years. Boeing's C-17 lines are busy building for other nations. We know when the A400Ms will be delivered because we're head of the queue. And whilst I'm a big fan of the Herc, the C-130 is a 50-year-old design, even the C-130J is based on a 70's development, isn't it about time we looked at a modern successor? The US has killed the Avionics Modernization Program for the C-130 that was supposed to bring it up to spec, so to actually buy C-130s with the capability of the A400M would mean an expensive avionics development as well, so Lewis's cost projections are wrong.

    And then we get to the real myth in Lewis's schpiel - that he can confidently predict the buying patterns of other nations. I'm sure he said the same about the Panavia Tornado when the Saudis were looking at it. We know he said the same about Eurofighter. In fact, Lewis seems to have been wrong a lot before, so how can he guarantee that no foreign country will buy A400Ms?

    1. bolccg

      Yes because

      ... the Typhoon has been a roaring success overseas? C'mon, the one nation we've sold them to has taken action (bat shit insane action, no less) to close down a fraud investigation into our arms sales. Plus we were obviously flogging them Typhoons we didn't want but were contractually signed up for.

      Get a grip man.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Wrong. Also sold 15 EFAs to Austria.

        look it up.

        We should make Ireland, the small Baltics and Poland also buy a considerable number of them. After all it's German money saving their economy from utter destruction...

        They are invited to beed it up with their own subsystems and contribute to the improvement of EFA.

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        RE: Yes because

        "......the Typhoon has been a roaring success overseas?...." Well, compared to the F-22 it certainly has! It looks like its main competitor in the export market is going to be the F-35, not the F-22.

        Looking back through the history of political meddling in our aircraft industry, we have had respected politicians shaft us before, such as when Lord Mountbatten went into overdrive to kill off the TSR2 in favour of the American F-111 "multi-role" aircraft and the Blackburn Buccaneer (Mountbatten was a fishhead too, like Lewis, and was desperate to keep the RN's Buccaneer). Mountbatten used the same arguments - the F-111 was supposed to be cheaper and more capable. In time, Mountbatten was proven wrong - when the F-111 finally arrived it didn't even match the capability of the TSR2 prototypes, had grown massively in price, and didn't get close to real capability until after many years of painful and costly development. It never did the fighter-interceptor role it was supposed to offer in addition to being a bomber. Likewise the land development of the Buccaneer had a long and difficult development. The F-111, which was also supposed to dominate the export market in the same way as the F-22 was supposed to, proved to be an export failure, notching up a paltry 24 units to the unhappy Australians.

        Yes, the A400M does look expensive, and politically loaded to keep European workers busy, but I can't see the argument for a mixed fleet of C-130s and C-17s being such a better choice without some more in-depth analysis.

    2. Reg Blank

      Don't let fact get in the way of your flawed analysis

      A400M cheaper than C-17/C-130 mix?

      Yes, because the costs associated with supporting 174 aircraft (A400M) is going to be much cheaper than supporting 230+ (C-17) and 280+ (C-130J) aircraft that also has have global supply chain, and whose development and support equipment and logistics had already been paid for and readily available? Your logic is screwed up.

      Seeing as both the Australia and Canada both run a C-17/C-130J mix successfully and economically, and Qatar, the UAE and India will be doing so soon, rather says your analysis doesn't add up.

      Shipping parts DHL?

      Your aircraft is used for combat missions. Troops on the ground need equipment in theatre ASAP. Your transport goes unserviceable. Yes, lets get DHL to ship to ship the needed part to us in 24hrs or so. Lets hope they don't misplace it, or hope the part needed is smaller than a microwave oven. Wouldn't it be a foolish situation if the USAF across the apron from us operated the same aircraft and had the part sitting on a shelf? You're running a military operation, not a corner shop selling sweets!

      The AMP isn't for C-130J aircraft, it is for all the legacy C-130E and H models the USAF still has in service. Why would you modernise the cockpit of a new aircraft with modern electronics?

      The C-130J has little in common with the original models. Didn't your mother tell you that appearances are only skin deep?

      No one is going to buy Typhoons. They are yesterday's fighter aircraft. If you are going to spend that much money on a fighter (instead of cheaper F16/F18/Gripen) you may as well spend it on a F35. The Saudis bought them because they have more money than sense and some of that money got kicked back into private accounts.

      So far the A400M has been exported to South Africa (only because they were bought in on the production program, now cancelled due to costs doubling) and Malaysia. Recently Airbus said they were pinning hopes on a RAAF order to replace older C-130H. Seeing as the RAAF operate the C-17 (loves it!) and the C-130J successfully (which you thought was bad to do), I think the RAAF would rather more C-17s and C-130Js.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        RE: Don't let fact get in the way of your flawed analysis

        More like you didn't let any thinking get in the way of your "analysis"!

        ".....aircraft that also has have global supply chain...." So, please explain how the Lockheed/Boeing supplychain is any cheaper than the Airbus one? Din't you notice all those commercial Airbus aircraft taking sales from Boeing over the years, all over the World? And don't let the fact that the RAF does almost 80% of it's transport airtime overhead of those partner countries that will be buying A400Ms too, many of which do not operate C-17s. Even the route out to Kandahar overflies mainly European countries that will be buying A400Ms. So your "global" issue just seems to be a world of hot air.

        ".....both the Australia and Canada both run a C-17/C-130J mix...." Both countries had to make the decision before the A400M was available, so they really didn't have much choice. And both are just about completely dependent on the US for their aircraft, despite Canada in particular once having a very capable aircraft-building industry.

        ".....Your aircraft is used for combat missions....." Transports are rarely used for "combat missions", the majority of time the modern RAF transport is spent trundling through the friendly skies on longhaul supply trips. And many of those airfields that a broken A400M might set down on don't have USAF C-17s flying through them. The last two times NATO had to move masses of troops out to the Mid-East for the two Gulf Wars they turned to commercial companies to supply the majority of aircraft to fly the troops in. In the first Gulf War, three US troops were airlifted into Saudi by commercial airlines for each one flown in by the USAF. I'm told it was almost as high for GW2 and the NATO Bosnian campaigns.

        "....Yes, lets get DHL to ship to ship the needed part to us in 24hrs or so....." <Sigh> I suppose it was too much to hope that you would realise that the example of DHL's 24-hour promise is actually BETTER than that achieved by even the USAF? DHL was listed as a "service supplier" to the USMC, US Army, USAF and USN during both Gulf Wars. As a military family, we used to hitch rides home from Germany and Cyprus on RAF and sometimes USAF transports. We once had to wait for four days in Rome (hardly the far end of the "global supplychain") for a part for an USAF Herc. I thought that was bad, but the pilot told us tales of how some aircrews would often "let a bit of kit go u/s" so they could catch a week or more in Hawaii! I'm told the practice hasn't stopped, despite your belief in an uber-efficient USAF and Amercian aircraft industry.

        "......The C-130J has little in common with the original models...." The C-130J actually has a massive amount in common with the old models. Whilst Lockheed have tried to paint it as "all-new", the USAF - desperate to get the buy through Appropriations - admitted to it having "80+% parts commonality" - that doesn't sound all that different to me! Maybe your mother should have suggested you spent more time looking more than skin-deep into your facts.

        ".....No one is going to buy Typhoons....." Actually, the current downturn in the World economy may push the F-35 price up and make the Typhoon more appealling to some countries. And I like how you compare the long-range interceptor Typhoon with the less-capable F-16/F-18/Gripen. But then the F-18 has been one of the aircraft that helped expose the over-hyped F-22, as shown by this two-seat Growler (yes, the ECM version!) that carries an F-22 "kill" after it out-manouvered an F-22 on exercise ( So much for the "golden bullet" F-22!

        "....The AMP isn't for C-130J aircraft..." Wrong! The AMP's original idea was to bring ALL the USA's C-130s up to a common avionics standard so they could be used at night and in bad weather, two things that many of the current USAF C-130s don't fly in! In fact, the USAF is constantly amazed at what the RAF Herc pilots manage with just NVGs and a bit of practice. The failure of the AMP means that the USAF is still looking for an update and possibly a replacement for the C-130 in general (and Lockheed are bricking themselves that it won't be another rehash of the C-130).

        ".....Seeing as the RAAF operate the C-17...." Yes, on longhaul transport, not into Kandahar. And they only settled for the C-17s as they didn't have another option at the time. But ignoring the RAAF, which are the other side of the World, the A400M does give the RAF and other European AFs another option to the C-17, and one that can do the rough-field work the C-130 does too. I don't see why you have such a hard time seeing that one aircraft that can replace two (especially as one, the Herc, is getting very long-in-the-tooth) would appeal to the politicians, especially when they can protect European jobs (and that means votes) at the same time. I suspect it's that you don't want to see that.

        1. Reg Blank

          Argument cont...

          So you want to score points by pointing out that the A400M is so late that it missed perhaps the two most important contracts outside of Europe? Australia and Canada between them could have purchased more than 40 airframes. Because of the delays, prices per unit is going up. Prices are going up, govts are cutting back on orders. Govts cutting back orders, price goes up. Are you seeing a pattern here?

          Not combat missions? Not into Kandahar? If you look further down I've linked to the ADF website. Not only are the RAAF flying into big, sealed, safe airfields like Kandahar (it isn't some remote base, you know. If you fly F-16s out of it, it isn't a "rough field") but flying supplies and armoured vehicles by C-17 into their forward area of Tarin Kowt which only has a dirt field. The ignorance in this forum regarding the capability of the C-17 is incredible. Just because the RAF is too afraid of denting their C-17s, doesn't mean others are afraid of utilising their aircraft to support their troops.

          I'm not going to comment on the state of the RAF sudpply chain as I don't think either of us have enough knowledge, and I agree that commercial freight operators have their place (after all, DHL operates contract flights into Baghdad), but I'll make two points. 1) You shouldn't be relying on a commercial entity for your mission critical parts during combat operations in Afghanistan. 2) All respect to DHL and its ability to fly parts to the UAE, but the US military has the deepest and most capable supply chain, if not the most efficient by commercial standards...if you are running the same equipment as them. What makes the C-17 so attractive is the option to plug straight into the USAF support chain, not only for parts but for upgrades to hardware and software.

          Airbus != Airbus Military. A400M != A330. I can't speak for the supporting of Airbus military aircraft (because there aren't any of them yet), but if their sister company Eurocopter is any guide their parts support is terrible. Helicopters on the ground being cannibalised to keep others flying because Eurocopter can't get of their arse and supply parts under contract. Brand. New. Aircraft. NH90s.

          This is a better example because there are going to be FAR fewer A400M airlifters in service than A330s.

          The AMP program does not cover the C-130J. "Wrong!" fail, you fool! Show me a link where it is said it does. The whole point of the AMP program is to provide a standard glass cockpit to C-130 aircraft that still have an analogue cockpit, such as the hundreds of C-130E and H models still in service. Seeing as the C-130J already has a glass cockpit, why would they spend the money on them.

          The point isn't to fly in night and bad weather, they can already do that (as you then implied the RAF can also do - it really isn't that amazing!), but having a common cockpit layout over all the legacy C-130 fleet, reduce maintenance (analogue cockpits require a lot of maintenance), and reduce cockpit workload and improve pilot navigation.

          BTW, AMP is back on with funding for 200+ cockpits. AMP didn't "fail", the money was taken away and given to more pressing programs. Now it is back.

          Your blind faith of the Typhoon is touching, but entirely misplaced. No one would choose the Typhoon over the F-16, and you supplied the reason: " you compare the long-range interceptor Typhoon with the less-capable F-16/F-18/Gripen".

          Key word: Interceptor.

          Most air forces do not require interceptors. How 1980's Cold War! It is almost quaint!

          Most air forces require their combat aircraft to carry and drop bombs, which the Typhoon can't do. At least not yet. And by the time Eurofighter has added the capability, the world (and the RAF) has moved on to the F-35. The only reason to buy the Typhoon is because you aren't allowed to buy the F-35.

          By the time the F-35 has been in production a few years, the price will drop significantly. The F-35 will end up cheaper than the Typhoon, but more capable.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            RE: Argument cont...

            "So you want to score points by pointing out that the A400M is so late that it missed perhaps the two most important contracts outside of Europe?...." Wow, that's a bit like me saying the C-17 can't be a success 'cos the Wright brothers didn't fly one at Kittyhawk! There are a few more countries looking to buy replacements for their tired C-130 fleets than just Australia and Canada, and they won't be looking at the C-17.

            ".....AMP is back on with funding for 200+ cockpits...." That won't even cover half the US fleet. it also means the US will have to stock two supplychains for the different cockpit instruments as well as the completely different supplychain for the instruments for the C-17, a problem that won't be there for the A400M.

            And I love how you say that relying on commercial companies like DHL is "bad" and totally ignore the fact that all the US forces use DHL! Of course all Western forces are using commercial companies for all types of roles, it simply makes their budgets stretch a bit further. Whilst it would be nice if our forces didn't have to use commercial companies to fill the gaps, it sure wouldn't be nice paying the tax bills to cover it!

            "....Your blind faith of the Typhoon is touching...." In case you haven't heard, on the one occassion the Typhoon meet the Raptor that has been made public, not only did the Typhoon win the fights, the USAF sulked when they realised the Typhoon's radar had no problems tracking the "stealth" F-22. So far, the Typhoon has trounced the F-22, the F-15 and the F-16 on NATO exercises. Your faith in the infalibility of US aircraft isn't touching, it's just comic.

            "....No one would choose the Typhoon over the F-16...." The Typhoon has had no problems trouncing the F-16 and F-15. In fact, the Saudis showed much interest in NATO exercises where the Typhoon beat the F-16 and F-15, seeing as that's what the Israelis have.

            ".....Key word: Interceptor....." Actually, the Typhoon is an air-superiority fighter, long-range interceptor and (with Tranche 3 bits) a reasonable ground-attack aircraft. The F-16 can do air-superiority but nowhere near as well, is reasonable in ground-attack, but can't do the long-range interceptor role without losing half the weaponsload to tanks. Even the updated F-16 models lag the Typhoon on avionics, don't have such toys as the IR sensors or voice control, and the CAPTOR radar completely outclasses even the AN/APG-80, which means the Typhoon will see the F-16 first and kill it at range. Even if the F-16 does manage to close to dogfighting range where it used to be the yardstick, that was in the '90s, the more modern Typhoon can happilly turn and beat the F-16. But, before you embarrass yourself any more, the conversation's about the A400M.

            "....Most air forces do not require interceptors...." What, still going on about the Typhoon? Well, if you insist on making yourself look stupid, maybe you'd like to explain why the US bought the F-22, a one-trick pony of an interceptor? Ignoring the UK has more airspace to cover from intruders than any European NATO partner, do you think maybe we bought them for fun?

            ".....The only reason to buy the Typhoon is because you aren't allowed to buy the F-35...." Really? So the fact that the Typhoon will carry more AAMs, have better air-to-air sensors, and will be faster and able to do the whole shebang at a range the F-35 can only match by strapping on tanks and carrying just a gun, those things don't matter then? If you hadn't noticed, the F-35 is being bought by the RAF to replace the Tornado GR4s, not to replace the Typhoons. The F-35 simply won't do what the Typhoon already can.

            ".....The F-35 will end up cheaper than the Typhoon, but more capable." Oh, execpt for the whole air-to-air role, where the F-35 is pretty much a big ball of suck compared to the Typhoon. It is only designed to match the F-16, a fighter the Typhoon already eclipses quite comfortably. How many AAMs can the F-35 carry? Want to know how many more the Typhoon can carry? Or how the Typhoon, fully-armed for air-to-air, can go 40% further on internal fuel alone than a naked F-35A? One of the simple arguments against replacing the RAF Typhoons with F-35s in the future is that the F-35 sale would have to include extra pilots and extra flying tankers to provide what the Typhoon does now. Maybe we could convert some A400Ms.....

  11. Mark C 2


    Title says it all.

    After watching the recent CH4 Euro Gravy Train documentary I think it is time to sack all MEPs and pick people from a lottery that have an IQ > 120 and make it their civic duty to be an MEP.

    ...and same for MPs.

    1. lawndart

      Scared now

      It would be nice, however, if you chose a figure somewhat further from the midpoint of the bell curve; at least two standard deviations away, possibly three. Yes, this restricts your pool of available subjects, but hopefully they will have sufficient agility to accommodate any role they acquire in a future cabinet. The major dangers of this scheme are that IQ tests are not infallible so you may end up with idiots savant making the grade, and the sneaking suspicion that The Dark Lord of the Sith will pop up in a position of power again.

      You see, I don't WANT to be an MEP or MP.

      Hmm. I suppose that makes me even more suitable for the job, according to Douglas Adams.

      1. RJ

        I love the fact

        That you can refer to someone as the "Dark lord of the Sith" and have a large percentage of the population know who you are talking about.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As someone with an IQ high enough to join mensa

        but too lazy to even try, but I digress, I can tell you that smart people can make astoundingly intelligent but mindbogglingly unwise decisions. To the point that just about everyone but themselves immediately spot the problem. Yes, it is entirely possible to outsmart yourself.

        Currently being an M[E]P is about charisma and popularity, and it might do to change that, it's the most glaring problem with democracy. It's about who you know, about brokering power, about exchanging favours, horsetrading and compromising.

        But even if you manage to change all that it still isn't merely about simple intelligence. It's also about people, about administration, about leadership, about statemanship, and a bunch of other things. How are you proposing to find such people, and put them in power? How do you ensure they won't abuse power, the tired old who will watch over the watchers?

        Just filtering on intelligence alone is neither sufficient nor strictly necessary. Though it might help, what likely helps more is /vision/, and then hope that vision is realistic and useful to pursue.

        I think we all have things that irk us, that have us itch to do something about it. There are certainly a few things I would want to change. Should I ever be in a position to do so, my greatest wish is that I'll know when to stop, and then step down, leaving something useful that won't immediately be broken down by the next in line.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Not a bad idea for the lords

      But maybe something more along the lines of a year's compulsory jury service than a lottery.

  12. Rogerborg

    "French defence minister either unbelievably ignorant or simply lying"

    Why either/or? Could be both.

    Anyway, if the goal is to keep factories factoring, why not build C-17s under license? That doesn't keep Eurodesigners in a job, but they're apparently incompetent anyway.

    1. Stumpy Silver badge

      He's a French Politician...

      ... of course he's both

    2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      C17? Surely you mean C130?

      The C17 is nowhere near able to land on short bumping strips as well as the A400M, contrarily to what Lewis boldly states, so it's not going to be able to do the job in 'stan.

      The C130, on the other hand, can, but it's an ageing craft, slow as fuck and in dire need to be replaced (according to some) -maybe not the most pressing concern when money is tight, though.

      Anyway, that's beside the point. The US won't let you build the things under license I suspect (they want to keep the jobs and the revenue stream. Not to mention tech "secrets").

      1. Reg Blank

        Phanom C-17s?

        Either those are ghost C-17s, or a the RAF are a bunch of weaklings not willing to get their C-17s dirty.

        Harden up!!

  13. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


    Don't we have some kind of oversight committee for military spending who can crucify some minister or other over this?

    Or did we lose that ability when we sold our soul to Europe?

  14. qwertyuiop

    Doesn't that cut both ways?

    "If the Americans ever decide to cut off the supply of spare parts, the A400M will not keep flying for long"

    Whereas if we bought American planes in the first place and they decided to cut off the supply of spare parts...

    Bit of a specious argument I think!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If the Americans ever decide to cut off the supply of spare parts

      True, but at least we pay a lot less for the pleasure of being shafted.

    2. bolccg


      that's the very argument he's making isn't it? To say that the A400M gives us more operational sovereignty than American kit is bunk - so buy American and get good stuff cheaply.

    3. Keith Williams

      Re: Doesn't that cut both ways?

      I think that you are misinterpreting Lewis's point - if the point of buying A400Ms is to avoid dependency on supplies of American parts for the Boeing aircraft, then this is a fail because there is so much American content in the A400Ms. Additionally, those American parts are subject to American Export controls - which will limit the foreign governments that the aircraft can be sold to.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      We Don't Need A Single American Screw

      After all it was Messerschmitt who invented the Jet Fighter. The Tu-95 turboprops who regularly scare the Anglosaxons are also mainly the work of German engineers. And contrary to other reports we are capable of making our own semiconductors. With ASML and Zeiss Europe can give America the middle finger, if needed.

      Any more questions ??

      1. asdf
        Thumb Down

        funny that

        Hmm kind of interesting how this Yank has gotten quite a bit of work from European semi conductors companies such as ASML, most of it on the US side of the pond. Fact is Europe and the US are so intertwined as it no longer being possible for any large project not to contain both.

      2. asdf

        one of thing

        Many of ASML tools contain American developed software. Just saying.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    American Cost Overruns: F-35 - 100 % will perform translation.

    1. asdf

      strawman argument

      Your point? Yes the USA war pig makers are just was wacked as yours. The only difference is we pour such a retarded amount of $ that come war time we usually do have some kit we can use for most any purpose (and when we don't we can still afford to buy 10k IED resistant personale carriers). Lewis's point is the UK can't afford to waste cash (whether the US can in the long run is also an open question) on dumb military purchases as the economy is quite a bit smaller and can't get $ from the Chinese (good ole Tbills) any time they want.

  16. hugo tyson


    I wondered how long it would take Lewis to get on that story... a first for Hansard, is how it was reported elsewhere.

  17. JaitcH

    One thing about the 400M are the ...

    sexy looking propellers.

  18. /dev/null

    A couple of points...

    Where does Lewis's C-17 pricetag of £70m (say $112m?) come from? According to the DoD themselves (see, they spent $1528m on 8 C-17s this year - I make that about $191m a piece.

    Also, how many of those 60 C-130-operating nations are third-world outfits that can barely keep their own air forces flying, never mind help the RAF keep flying too?

    Oh, and contrary to what Lord Gilbert claims, there aren't 2600 C-130Js in use - LM only announced the delivery of the 200th C-130J in July ( The C-130J is a somewhat different beast to all previous C-130s - they don't call it the "Super Hercules" for nothing.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Why not buy Russian?

    Lets face it, i trust them as much as the Yanks. At least they tell someone when they are going to f**k them over!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Buy russian kit

      Let me see, resilient kit, well-built, better performances, better sustainability... wait, no, they are the ENEMY, stop that at once! Let's buy some playmobile-grade kit from our friends across the ocean instead. It's not as if they're playing us as tools, is it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why not buy Russian?

      Hopefully without getting too technical and deluging the comment section with intricate detail.

      "Coz they're shit."

    3. arkhangelsk

      Better yet, first Western buyer

      will get some great terms because the Russians / Ukrainians need a breakthrough like this to wipe out the prejudices against them and allow them access to the West, and they know it. They might give you the first plane for free.

      It'll greatly improve relationships, and they can stop (or reduce) selling weapons to China. Every moron in NATO says they should understand China is the real threat, blah, blah, blah; but what can they do when the guys to their Western Theater is threatened by this conglomerate slowly expanding towards their borders, setting up BMD, while the Eastern Theater is giving life support to their arms industry? The way to show China is the real threat is to get friendlier, understand that they do have interests, buy things from them when they got cheap, reasonably good kit (like transport planes).

      They should have gone for the An-70 in the 90s rather than fooling with the A-400 project. If they had done this, all of Europe would have FINISHED re-equipping with a modern, medium military transport by now; rather than both sides struggling towards the finish line and looking as if they will hit the finish line almost at the same time (the An-70 is much closer to the finish line but they have less money to push it through).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Russia vs USA

      Russian aircraft specs:



      -able to take off in any weather at any altitude

      -once airborne, faster and shorter turns than any oposition

      USA aircraft specs:

      -cup holder

      -comfy seat

      1. arkhangelsk

        Amazingly for this kind of flippant remark

        ... you are remarkably close.

        Indeed, when the ACPS-SOR (the Canadian requirement for the C-17) came out, in addition to such basic requirements as range-payload performance, among its criteria (in Tier 2) were coffee- cup holder. Tier 1 is mostly dominated by specific types of electronics.

        It would have been fine, of course, if not for what's NOT on the list. Which is any real statement of the grade of runway it was to operate in. In the minds of the SOR's writer:

        "Austere Airfield – an airfield having little or no support in terms of maintenance or logistics. It may be temporary with little or no conventional aerodrome infrastructure. Landing surface may be unprepared/unpaved, unmarked and unlit."

        Apparently, if the runway had to be made of titanium-alloy, it would still qualify. This suggests the author either had no idea of what is really important, or knows the C-17 would not be selected if he puts some realistic requirements for the austere airfield...

        In contrast, among the requirements when the Russians specified the IL-76 was a specification that it had to work with only 6kg/cm^2 ground pressure

  20. S Larti

    plus ca change

    quelle surprise...

  21. Joe User


    "People often argue that huge planes like the C-17 aren't suitable for shorthaul work in Afghanistan, of course. This isn't because they can't do the job - a C-17 is quite capable of landing on rough airstrips and has a ramp - but because big jets are seen as too valuable to risk on the more dangerous tasks."

    Yes, by all means, please send your smaller, MORE EXPENSIVE planes into the high-risk areas....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      >Yes, by all means, please send your smaller, MORE EXPENSIVE planes into the high-risk areas....

      They are not much more expensive when you look at the real-world costs of a C17. But that's irrelevant, as the C17s can't land or take of from the airfields in said "high-risk areas". Airfields with >2.3 km of hard, well maintained tarmac strip are not very frequent in 'stan. That's what the C!7 needs in order to take off safely. The A400M (and the old slow Hercules, for that matter) can take off from <1km bumpy strips. Not quite the same playing field.

  22. Volker Hett
    Thumb Down

    For a superpower like the UK ...

    which has to fight world wide wars on really big scale, the A400m is probably not the best solution. Just like Frigates and Destroyers and so on.

    This is small stuff for lesser nations, Italy or Luxembourg.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      Sir, you made my day!

      Wait, you were being sarcastic, right? Regardless, I laughed, so thanks.

  23. Is it me?

    So it's...

    Ok for the US to outrageously subsidise its plane manufacturers to build military aircraft and corner a market but not us Europeans, we should just shut up and support the US economy.

    1. asdf

      not quite

      Support the US economy? Hardly, we have a negative trade balance with virtually everyone in the world including enormous ones with Germany and China. Keep dreaming the US costs the UK more jobs than vice versa.

  24. Steve 48
    Thumb Down we go again!

    Bunk and junk...journalism is supposed to be about reporting the facts and maybe a bit of speculation with some spin on the side, instead here we have yet another case of puffing out a 3 or 4 para story by regurgitating the same old anti european/buy USoA tripe. What should have been a story about some has-been in ermine making comments after one too many sherberts has been turned into yet another diatribe. Change the record will ya...

  25. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Same landing requirements?

    Surely you're jesting.

    The C17 needs more than 2.3 km of _hard_ strip while the A400 only needs ~1km of _soft_ strip. That is indeed a huge difference, to the point that it's meaningless to compare them on any other aspect. That's probably why Mr Former Minister compared the A400M to the C130, not to the C17 (also he appears big on interoperability, and virtually no-one flies the C17)

    Not taking any side on this one, just stating the facts.

    1. Chris 244

      Wrong facts

      "The C-17 can operate on small, austere airfields with runways as short as 3,000 feet (914m) "

      "The C-17 currently holds over 20 world-class airlift records, including payload to altitude time-to-climb, and the Short TakeOff and Landing (STOL) mark in which the C-17 took off in less than 1,400 feet (427m), carried a payload of 44,000 pounds (19,958kg) to altitude, and landed in less than 1,400 feet (427m)."

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

        That's empty...

        Because hauling air across large distances is unbelievably useful, innit?

    2. Trygve

      are you sure of those facts?

      The C17 needs the 2.3km to take off with a full 77-ton load (i.e. a full size battle tank plus a small truck). The comparable distance for the A400M would be infinity, since it couldn't get off the ground with that load.

      The A400M needs 940m run with its 37-ton max load - the comparable distance for the C17 seems hard to find, but since min takeoff at min weight is 900M, it might be about 1600-1800 metres. Not brilliant, but not terrible either.

      Of course, if short takoffs/landings into soft strips are really a significant concern, the chances of either of these 100 million dollar/euro planes being used is basically zero - some rusty old C130 or ex-soviet charter plane would get used instead.

      It all seems a bit silly to me - arguing about whether the UK should buy Gucci or Ralph Lauren when it should really head down to TK Maxx and buy whatever's on offer.

  26. bexley


    First of all it is unfair to call a man a liar since he knows that should america withdraw the rights to use their part, the Fremch would carry on using them anyway and if push came to shove we could all design new avionics for them.

    Why pour Billions into the US economy, forget the Tactical requirements for a moment and see this for what it really is....A way of boosting the european economies.

    Every penny spent on US hardware is money down the drain, spend it with european companies and you get a lot of your money back in tax, you give people jobs, you dont have to pay those peoples dole money.

    There is far more to defence spending that getting the cheapest initial price possible and i'm probably not alone in saying i'm getting really broed with Mr Page's scathingly short sighted articles on defense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Military spending for teh grate econermy

      While you are right that there is more to military procurement than mere money, none of them should focus on "creating jobs" and "pumping money into the economy".

      For one, there are more, and better, ways to prop up the economy. If you have to do it this way because you have no other then frankly, you're doing it wrong.

      For another, you run the very real risk of losing sight of the real objective, that is to provide your military with the kit they need to do what they do best, defend your country.

      The primary consideration for the question, "who will build it, or rather, where will it be built?", is strategic. If you order it from examplistan, then you likely won't be able to any longer once the shooting with examplistan starts. Though this is not always a given. The Dutch did sell weapons to the Spanish and helped fund their rebellion and war of independence from Spain that way.

      The problem with this reasoning nowadays, as Lewis has often pointed out, is that even nominally British companies like BAE are now in part or entirely American-owned, and worse, lots of critical parts for the things made are coming from America. That's right, critical parts have to be shipped in from across the pond and are not manufactured locally. So, once the shooting with America starts, you're in a pickle. Even with the A400M.

      Back to building an aeroplane. You can spend a lot of dough on reinventing the wheel, or you can buy already-existing gear that's at least comparable, maybe a lot cheaper. Not because those projects didn't overrun, but because the development costs and overruns have been paid for by the Americans -- for military gear the first batch is most expensive for that reason. And you know exactly what you'll get, when you'll get it, and what it'll cost. Best of all, you can start training your crews on the new kit right now.

      And since we're in a pact with them anyway, we'd be operating with them often enough and then it's far simpler to raid their stacks of spares --or of any of the 60-odd other countries using the same aeroplanes-- than it is to ship them in from our suppliers. Which is exactly what the good Lord Gilbert pointed out.

      Besides, we already depend far more than we realise on them anyway. Suppose we drop the treaty. What will we no longer have access to? Go on, think about what'll happen.

      If you want some of the jobs too, then make a deal to buy some straight, and license a bunch to build in your own back yard. If you continue to bicker and argue about ownership, then again I point out that the Americans own our defense industry just like the Chinese own America. And our R&D, and so on? Well, it's not getting much useful done now, is it?

      If you're serious about jobs and keeping stuff "in the country", then open a public tender and get at least two, but better three or four, conglomerates of investors build you a prototype. Pick the best one and buy a shedload of those. Yes, several parties will have wasted investor monies. But that's not public money and you ought to get better gear that way. Right now airbus has a blank cheque and no incentive not to keep on writing.

      I'll agree that Lewis can get a tad repetetive about it, but he's not wrong.

    2. Mark Berry
      Black Helicopters

      While I don't always agree with Mr. Page......

      Defence spending should be all about equipping the best of us with the best of kit to do what has to be the most demanding and dangerous job we have.

      Anything less is criminal.

    3. arkhangelsk

      You do realize

      that the cost of those taxes are added to the product price, so we wind up getting fleeced the correct amount, don't you?

      There are only a few conditions when building all the arms by yourself is a good idea:

      1) You are capable of building a full-spectrum of arms yourself. Note that this does not mandate NIH syndrome, but you must have a domestic (even if inferior) capability in case the foreigners cut you off.

      Except for the United States, probably only Russia and China come close to meeting this criteria.

      2) You have a fairly strong political need to use force w/o restraint from other major arms sellers.

      The US, Russia, China, and a few "rogue nations" like NK or Iran qualify for this. Otherwise, while it is nice, in the modern world it is probably not a "need".

      If 1 AND 2 apply to you, then you should retain a strong independent arms industry, even if its products may be more expensive and/or plain inferior to foreign competitors. Obviously, this does not apply to Britain or most of Europe today, so there is only 1 reason to build arms:

      3) Your arms industry is actually competitive on a cost-capability basis.

      Though you are right that all else being even, building the arms yourself is slightly better economically than just importing, in comparison to the good that the same amount of money might have done invested in civilian services and industry, arms business is still a waste, as the Soviet Union found to its sorrow.

      Thus, if a British or European weapon provides similar capability at the same (or very slightly higher cost), sure, build local. Otherwise, in most cases the net loss rapidly exceeds the net gain, and you are better off buying cheap weapons elsewhere and directly investing the saved cash into civilian industry.

      Ultimately, the defense budget is the defense budget. Not only is it immoral to sacrifice capability to pad industry, it just ain't too good at it.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Lewis Page and Buy American

    Another article by Lewis which tells us all to buy American. Does Lewis have a contract with the US arms industry.

    The funny thing here is that the relevant comparison is between A400M and C130J. The C17 has no real rough field capability because it has jet engines which are highly likely to suffer foreign object damage in rough field landings. Also reverse thrust on a jet cannot be used on anything other than concrete runways because of foreign object damage, so if you did try to land on rough fields you would be doing so on wheel brakes which will mean much longer landing runs.

    The C130J could well be a better buy than the A400M, but Lewis should at least compare apples with apples. A C17 to A400M comparison is not apples to apples.

    Also, in the past every time Lewis has compared the F22 to the Typhoon he hasn't compared the same price measurements - I worry he is doing the same here. With F22 to Typhoon Lewis routinely compares flyaway cost of the F22 with program cost divided by number of units built of the Typhoon. The Flyaway cost of the F22 is substantially less than program cost divided by number of units ordered (or build).

  28. VoodooForce


    Looking back at this sensationalist piece from same author:

    I will take this latest article with an ocean of salt.

    Ahhh there's my coat - time to leave the soap box hall

  29. Zolko

    future long-range passenger Airbus

    What Mr Lewis Page ignores here is what purpose the A400M serves: he seems to think it's "only" a military transport aircraft, but with petrol running low in the world, does he think we're gonna fly passenger jets at 850km/h across the Atnlantic ? Or are we gonna fly turboprops at 700km/h ? Now that the OMC (and even the EU) forbid subsidies, on what sort of money will Airbus develop such a new aircraft ?

    And *THAT* is the A400M: a subsidy for Airbus to develop the next generation of air transport. Bring it on, and f***** Mr Page.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      If UK military spending doesn't support UK jobs, why do we need to spend ?

      The entire defence industry is a complete waste of money anyway. You get military type like Lewis living in his ivory castle demanding the best toys for his war games. The fact is he would get nothing if the UK bought everything American becuase we cannot afford to blow money on American kit, we need the payback of export sales and spending on UK jobs. Selling the Eurofighter means more toys

      for the boys. The A400 is a long term product, it could be selling for 60 years like the C-130 and as you say the commercial prospects for turboprops are massive with its lower fuel consumption advantages over pure jet engine.

      The whole reason for the A400 delay was the EU demand to develop a turbo prop engine and not simply buy a P&W model. So the EU is subsidising Airbus, at least they are not burning $25billion a year on the shuttle make work project.

  30. Will Leamon

    titular bits

    Please for the sake of humanity could all of you who just come here to bitch about how much you dislike Lewis Paige articles PLEASE STOP READING THEM.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I stopped reading Lewis Pages articles

      I just read the comments so I can enjoy the slagging off he gets. Its patently obvious that he has no idea what he's talking about. These articles are simply trolling to get a response, like every troll he use his own invented/selected figures to justify his argument (buy American) .

      For instance the C-17, it actually costs $200million ( last customer who bought six) and obviously fulfils a different role to the A400M, the UK has them and is happy with them. Incidentally their extra load capacity is not as great the paper numbers specify as they are limited due to the airframe stresses. The US has C-17's coming out of their ears but they don't have the budget or desire to buy more air transport, even though the A400M would fulfil a definite role as the C-130 is simply too small. Having allies with the A400M and the US with an excess of C-17 suits both sides as we are co-dependant already, if we can share aircraft carriers why not air transport?

      The US is quite capable of horrendous cost overruns and missed specifications. There is still the possibility of the F-35 being cancelled (program cost per aircraft now stands at $140m and will rise). F-22 is costing near to $300million. Makes the Eurofighter at 120euro million look quite reasonable. Dassault Rafale program cost is 138 million euro's per aircraft...

      But if you want to see a really crazy over priced piece of US kit, have a look a the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, unit cost at this early stage is $22.5million and its incapable of surviving IED's

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Dassault Rafale program cost is 138 million euros per aircraft...

        And the merkins refused to let their precious craft compete against the Rafale in a dogfight when the Emirates asked them to...

        Does anyone smell that hint of fish, or is it just me?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Euro-w*nking makework project'

    as opposed to 'US-w*nking makework project'?

    Which has more value as toilet paper - the US dollar or the Euro?

  32. Jemma

    ...who the hell cares anyway...

    Since the next big war is going to be with China and they will kick us in the b***ocks so hard that the people they're attached to will probably make orbit.

    Its immateriel (see what I did there?) what we buy and from whom - if it comes to a proper war the situation is as follows..

    America: dead in the water, mortgaged to the hilt.. no help there then

    France: enough said

    Germany: swamped

    Russia: most of their kit above the size of a machine gun is more rust than bodywork and more filler than either...

    GB: given that this will happen probably outside of the next 20 years (i hope) the best we'll be able to throw at them by then will be the dusted off Duxford collection... and I'll tell you now I am not going to be the poor sod who ends up with the 1 1/2 strutter thanks all the same.

    It matters not a jot or a tittle what we buy, if they put up 30 to our 1 we are dead meat...

    Oh, and in case anyone wants to mention that we won the last lot... be reminded that we only won the battle of Britain because a fat morphine addict was in charge of the other side and they could build big enough petrol tanks into their fighters... if anyone won that war it was the Russians, not the west, and even thats debatable given the fact that Herr "oooh look, another chance for tactical fsck up... woo hoo" Hitler was in charge.

    Given that our best bets as allies are either a country that legs it at the soonest opportunity, or one that puts more bullets into its own side than it ever does the enemy... I think the chances of us coming out on top are pretty much zero...

    So it makes very little difference what we buy and where from... if The Great Steve ever cancels the iPhone contracts....

    We're doomed...

    To misquote

    "You're all invited to a mass slaughter, General Melchett wants to move his Drinks Cabinet 6 inches closer to Beijing..."

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Organisation Conjointe de Co-operation en matiere d'ARmement

    Why is it that all European projects end up with a French name? There are lots of other languages spoken in EU and, by the way, the most common second language throughout EU (England aside) is English.

    If EU wants help preserve a dying language then why not choose one in even more need of help than French - Welsh maybe?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      For the same reason...

      ... that the new Eurocodes (civil and structural design) were written in French and then translated into English and all the other European foreign languages, meaning you end up with a document that makes little sense and is almost impossible to read...

      ... because if you don't, the Frogs take their ball and go home. Or wave a white flag. Or go on strike...

      ... actually, I'm wrong, of course.

      They generally do all three.

      You've only got to look at any of the pan-European projects to see this. Didn't they try the same with EFA, saying "Yes, I know we're only buying 10% of the jets and the agreement was that work would be shared in proportion to the spend, but we want to do 50% of the work, and all the manufacturing must be in France."

      And I seem to remember that they had a similar stance with ITER as well?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Bicoze vee can

        Who's gonna come and tickle the French aerospace industry under the chin? BAE? I think not.

        France happens to have a very deep "insular" view on some stuff, like hard physics, aerospace and the like. Arianespace, Dassault, various cyclotron projects and such have drained significant ressources from the state's budget, while the UK and others were just buying US kit and hiring US boffins to save money. Now the result is obvious: The UK launches PARIS (as respectable as that might be, it was launched from Spain. Ha!) while France is energy self-sufficient and even sells leccy to their neighbours, has the technical ability to build and launch real space rockets, to built their own aircrafts, and to build and maintain huge cyclotrons. Tim might have invented the Internet, but he did so while working in France. Bitch. (ever thought of what "CERN" means?)

        Under the current clownish management, this is slowly disappearing, alas.

  34. Wibble257


    Yet again Lewis states opinion as fact and tries to trick the non-military readers into believing his half truths. Lewis either you really are ignorant of the military or you are deliberately spouting this rubbish to try and get a job with one of your beloved US military companies.

    - The C130J was sold to the RAF without long range tanks as it can cruise higher than the C130K and therefore use less fuel. However, as it is too slow the civilian ATC will not let it fly high enough (it gets in the way of the civilian traffic that can fly faster) therefore flys lower and uses up its fuel faster!! Not exactly brilliant from your friends at Boeing Lewis? Even the C17 is not as fast as the airliners because that was the way it was designed.

    - Just because the C17 can do rough strip landings does not mean you can do it. First you have to train the crews and the RAF has no spare capacity. Secondly, you need the spares to support and to fix the aircraft afterwards. Rough strip landings + big jet engines = lots of FOD damage = fan blade changes = money the RAF does not have!!! The best rough strip ac the RAF have is the C130k as it has metal props that can take far more punishment than the composite blades on the C130j and A400.

    - Just because the C17 can do para dropping, low level etc etc does not mean you can do it. All the low level stuff adds to the airframe fatigue and therefore servicing costs (hence why the RAF has retired some older C130s and paid a fortune for some to have new wings). The question is whether the A400 will suffer from fatigue more than the C17/C130J and how expensive the engineering aspect is to replace wings etc. So Lewis why don’t you research this instead of making up facts to support your articles? What are the servicing/hour rates costs for these aircraft Lewis? Oh, and of course you need to train all the crews to do all this.

    - The idea that the USAF and RAF etc share spares is a good one but not true. They should be able to share stuff, beg and borrow but the RAF can not and will not. When aircraft deploy they take a certain amount of spares with them and if they need anything else it comes from the UK. The A400 will not change this and it would be no different if we had 30 C17s!

    - “Interoperability” is an aspiration that the militaries have. Different air forces using the same aircraft does not automatically give you interoperability. While Boeing will make you a C130j it is up to the buyer to choose what radios, avionics etc it wants on it. When the RAF bought the C17 it also bought the radio fit direct from the USAF in order to achieve some interoperability but there are still differences between the UK C17 and the USAF ones. That is sadly life but blame the politicians not the military as the sign the contracts.

    - Don’t forget the C17 project was nearly cancelled and was late. That is sadly life when making military aircraft so just because the A400 is behind schedule does not automatically mean the aircraft will be a bad one.

    - Stating that the C17 can carry double what the A400 can is also largely irrelevant. A C17 can be filled by one Chinook because there is no more space despite it having the power to carry significantly more weight. An A400 would also be filled by one Chinook so in practical terms there is no real difference between the 2 aircraft. So you would need to research how many times the C17 is operated with a larger payload than the A400 is capable of which is probably not that many. Did you research this Lewis or is it easier to use dodgy math and reasoning?

    - To all the wikipedia aircraft experts please stop comparing stats of different aircraft it is meaningless in real terms. There are so many variables that effect aircraft/weapon performance etc your analysis means nothing. A big issues often ignored on these boards is the fact the capability of aircraft is determined not just by what the aircraft can do but the competence of the crew and costs of providing (for enough hours with all the relevant systems working at 100%) that aircraft to the crew. So Aircraft X may be able to do capability Z but it needs a trained crew, engineers, spares and importantly finance to do it. This is the main limiting factor for most military forces these days, including the USAF.

    So in summary another article of dribble and armchair aviation facts by a man who is desperate for a PR job with Boeing.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Wibble257

        come on

        If you think I am wrong please argue why/how etc instead of swearing like a child.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Wibble257

            Are you Lewis Page Richard

            So you agree that the article says nothing in terms of facts and is just opinion? If you read any of the articles, books etc by Lewis Page you will see he is very, very pro US equipment and completely against UK/European equipment but rarely, if ever backs this up with facts. I do not believe his military knowledge is as bad as his articles suggest so he clearly dumbs it down to the mainly non-military readership.

            Governments always keep the costs of new contracts secret; it is just the same as large commercial companies. You are implying some sort of cover up. When the time comes the National Audit Office will review the contracts and may offer criticism if it is justified. This is the way it works there is no conspiracy!!

            Both Lord Gilbert and Page do not use any real facts to support their argument and what facts that are used there are no sources. It is total garbage and there is also a complete lack of common sense and logic. The argument that the A400 is slower than the C17 so therefore the A400 is rubbish is completely void. The speed of a cargo aircraft is irrelevant in real terms. Now if the argument went on to say that the A400 has a higher hourly servicing rate and the servicing is more expensive that that would be a valid argument but as usual Page does not go into the real detail. This is Top Trumps Air Power where faster is always best!! The sustainability is the important factor so as long as the aircraft can arrive at 1600 each and every day, for example, it does not matter that it took off 30 mins before a C17 would have.

            The payload argument is equally void. You need to work out what the maximum and average payload is before you start looking and what aircraft you need. For example, if you rarely carry more than 20 tons then there is no need to have lots of aircraft that can carry 50 tons. If you regularly carry big, but light equipment such as helicopters then the size of the cargo area is important and the A400 is pretty big. What wikipedia and Mr Page wont tell you is the RAF work a simple schedule with their cargo aircraft and will fly into whatever FOB that is in use at regular and set intervals be it every day, 5 days or week or so on. The aircraft will still depart whether it is empty or full and it will come back at the same time whether it is empty or full. The reality is the C17 will rarely be anywhere near it’s maximum payload so the A400 can easily do the regular scheduled flights (if that is what the RAF wants) and leave the C17 free to do the heavy stuff if and when it comes up. All the really heavy stuff (tanks etc) is sent out by boat as it is a lot cheaper, aircraft are only used when the equipment is needed in theatre (or back from theatre) quickly.

            The bottom line is none of us know exactly what the A400 can and can not do at this time. It might end up being an expensive white elephant or it might end up being a flexible and capable aircraft. What Gilbert, Page and the other wikipedia Top Trumps Air Power experts should not being doing is passing judgement until they have the facts and knowledge to make a valid argument.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Goes both ways

    The original Hercules design may be over 50 years old, but quite a few old ideas still work. After all, we ARE flogging airships back to the US:

    If we are looking to save UK jobs, maybe we should be looking at some SkyCat 1000's. Might only do 185kph, but it can carry 1000T, and is a UK company. Might be slower than a C17/C130/A400, but it is a whole load quicker than a ship. No runway needed, tarmac or otherwise. No port needed, just enough space to unload.

  36. GeorgeTuk

    Down with this kind of thing...

    ...a totally stupid buying decision based on following someone else.

  37. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Should we

    Should we always just buy the cheapest. Buying an American plane may be 'cheaper' on the surface, but it

    a) Employs NO British people, thus means we just export money (and jobs)

    b) Fails to enhance British skills, thus meaning we will never compete

    c) Makes us subject to the Americans continued indulgence, the biggest problem with the proposed airbus solution is the fact it still relies on American technology.

    To be honest we should be able to defend ourselves - that means we need to be able to make our own planes, tanks, missiles, ships, bullets, guns, uniforms etc. etc. etc. If we can't then we are defenceless and might as well stop all defence spending as it is just a waste

  38. Wibble257


    Richard you are just a WUM. You are offering nothing to this argument except childish swearing and baseless conspiracy/cover up theories. When you finish school you can join the RAF and start watching the grown up news and reading grown up newspapers and learn about life in the real world.

    Either counter the arguments I have made or go and finish your homework.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. arkhangelsk

      Pot, kettle, black

      Let's review your long posts. Remember, the thesis of the article is that the A-400M is not worth it, so a counter will involve actually saying something good about A-400:

      1) The C-130J: Interesting tidbit, but hardly makes one think of anything more than remember that the A-400 (OK, and the propfan An-70, just to be fair) turboprop may also be forced outside of its optimal altitude band for similar reasons, thus its practical performance in peacetime may be less than what is promised to us. Not exactly something to make us feel the A-400 is all worth it.

      2) C-17 Rough: That actually sounds more like an argument to get C-130Ks or cheap Antonov-12s or whatever. Doesn't help the A-400.

      3) C-17 Para: True, but unless you can show that the A-400 will somehow require less training, less maintenance and all, this is not much of a pro-A-400 argument. In fact, it makes one conclude that the A-400 (which ain't cheap, and the cost of the plane is, though not proportional, correlated to its likely maintenance cost) will never do para-dropping or low-level either, which

      4) USAF-RAF: Interesting, but it is not a plus for the A-400.

      5) Interoperability: So, some parts aren't the same. Some parts are, which is more than could be said for the A-400.

      6) C-17 project was nearly cancelled: True, but it wasn't. I agree that C-17 is something of an overhyped aircraft thanks to the efforts of a certain blog which closed shop (not just stopped making new posts; DISAPPEARED from public view) 2 months before the numbers FINALLY caught up with the C-17, but it is there. If you want a Western strategic transport, there are not exactly a ton of alternatives. If you want cheaper (and in many respect better), buy Russian and improve relationships. Not the A-400.

      7) Double: Yes, there is a difference. The C-17 will probably carry that Chinook farther than the A-400, creating a band of areas and destinations that can be reached in one leap on the C-17, but not the A-400. Anyway, in his book, Lewis did mention that the US average load for the C-17 is 33-tons, which is very close to the MAXIMUM weight (read: greatly reduced range) capacity of the A-400.

      8) Wiki: Stop talking tautologies. All this means is that the A-400 will suffer from the same limitations; hardly something to promote it.

      Big Post 2:

      2) Contracts: Companies are forced to reveal such secrets to their stockholders so they may decide whether their money has been well spent. Well, the UK people ARE the stockholders for the government.

      3) What you've just said is that speed is less important if the sortie rate is low. Speed is over-rated due to fixed time costs in loading and maintenance, but not completely unimportant. In fact, your first longie already states some reasons why it may be important.

      4) That schedule is presumably made based on average and maximum loads (say P=.95, with the remaining top-5% peaks being handled by specially scheduled flights) per day. For example, if certain airbase averages say 20 tons a day, but may go to 40 tons about 1 in every 10 days, they will under this scheme have to schedule 1 C-17 or TWO A-400M every day to guarantee that everything that has to go out can be shipped. Hardly a pro A-400 argument.

      5) Basically a "Have-blind-faith-in-government" argument. If you are right, and we are not getting the information we need to judge reasonably whether we are getting fleeced or not from open sources, we can only conclude the government trying to avoid criticism of its actions by using the secrecy veal.

      In none of this do we see any solid reason to be pro A-400.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Richard

        >why your opinion is more valid than Lewis or Lord Gilbert

        This lacks an apostrophe s. Besides, Lewis' opinion and Lord Gilbert's opinion are far from equivalent. They are close to antagonistic, actually.

        Lewis campaigns for C17s to do short-haul missions, while Gilbert campaigns for C130s.

        Gilbert's POV is understandable in a cash-strapped situation (let's use inferior but cheaper crafts for the same role, as everyone does), while Lewis' view is that the C17, which will be flawn by a grand _4_ countries, and which has drastic landing strip requirements, can replace a robust short-haul, short strip craft like the A400 (or the old Hercules).

        That is basically flawed.

  39. Wibble257

    There is another Page

    Richard you have offered ZERO in this debate. Lewis Page has offered ZERO actual facts or even common sense. Lord Gilbert was part of the Labour government that originally bought the C130 and in doing so bowed to pressure from the US to reduce the order for the Belfast (the A400 of its day). Later as head of the MOD Lord Gilbert sold the 10 Belfast we did buy forcing us to lease them back at extortionate costs for the Falklands War. The last Labour Government had 13 years to cancel the A400 so if he felt so strongly about it he had time to do something but instead they kept on signing those agreements. So Gilberts track record of supporting the US economy at the expense British/European Economy and allowing the MOD to not have the right equipment for the job is pretty good.


    1. The A400 is replacing the C130 so will operate in a similar manner which mean lots short in theatre trips at lower levels were the speed difference between props and fans is less relevant and fans can be of an advantage.

    2. You can not buy the C130K new any more and if we bought them second hand the costs of bringing them up to standard would be too high (total costs may be higher than buying new A400ms). It is more likely that the RAF will keep hold of a few old C130Ks for this purpose. Plus we don’t know how robust the A400m is at rough strips yet, it may be fine.

    3. The A400 is to replace the C130 therefore it will do the jobs currently done by the C130, para dropping etc etc. You argue that we don’t know that the A400 will be cheaper but we don’t know it will be more expensive either!! That is the whole point of why the article is so useless is that is does not use facts or relevant information. It is just Lewis trying to get a PR job for Boeing again.

    4. Nor is it a negative.

    5. It is not a question about whether the parts fit!! It is about contracts, control, parts tracking, budgets etc etc. You cannot just bolt any old part to an aircraft regardless of whether it fits or not.

    6. How is the C17 over hyped? How is the Russian kit cheaper and better?

    7. Who cares what the USAF average load is? We are in Afghanistan TFN so as long as an A400 can fly a Chinook to Afghanistan then all is well beyond that who knows. You also forget the A400 is replacing the C130 not the C17. It is there mainly for the in theatre stuff the fact that it will be better at the long distance stuff than the C130J is a positive not a negative.

    8. The A400 will suffer from different issues because it is a different aircraft. It may be built in such a way that maintaining it is cheaper, quicker and easier, the spares supply may be faster. The point is we don’t know but everyone is assuming that it will be bad because it suites their blinkered view.

    2. What world do you live in? Have you written a FOI request asking the government for the costs of each A400? The reality is that the probably do not even know. These things are ridiculously complicated. However, we do live in modern country and the facts will come out. Like I said the National Audit Office regularly reviews these sorts things and is always happy to give the government hell in it’s reports.


    3. In English please?

    4. Why would they schedule more freight than an aircraft can carry? The schedule runs regularly at the same time etc etc to make is easy to coordinate and you have to take into account Slot times at Brize Norton and the destination. Importantly, you have to take into account the over flight clearance needed for the countries en-route which can be a nightmare/impossible to change short notice. You can not just send 2 aircraft although it sometimes possible to swap aircraft types. When there are surges, roulements etc they will schedule extra aircraft in advance. Or do you believe it is cost effective to send the biggest aircraft in the fleet on every flight on the off chance something heavy needs to be carried?

    5. Not at all. But just assuming there is some sort of conspiracy/cover-up when there is not proof is just stupid. However, I am not so ignorant think that supplying finance to the EU and UK is a bad thing as we will recycle some of the money back as tax. It is also important the UK/EU retains the skilled workforce to work on projects such as this as not only will we be forced to buy aircraft from the US we will also have to send them to the USA for servicing.

    Everyone also forgets the A400 can do something the C17 can not, Air to Air Refuel which will allow the RAF to replace the Vc10 and C130 in the Falklands with one aircraft. Cheap and simple. It should also allow, if money can be found, the RAF to use the AAR capability of the Merlins and possibly Chinooks.

    Anyway the whole point of my replies is not to be pro-A400 or pro-C17. The simple fact that you conveniently ignore is none of know how good, or bad the A400 will be. It might be brilliant, it might be rubbish we simply do not have the data we need to make an informed opinion. Lord Gilbert clearly has 2nd and 3rd agenda’s in writing what he did as does Page. There is absolutely nothing in what Page and Gilbert have stated that can be taken as fact or as a valid opinion. Sadly, this is common with all the articles Mr Page writes, they are all meaningless opinion dressed up as facts. Top Trumps Air Power. So, as my first line I wrote states the article is dribble.

    I will leave you with this link:

    1. arkhangelsk

      How is the C17 over hyped? How is the Russian kit cheaper and better?

      Mostly, the C-17 is most hyped regarding its rough-field performance. It is a pretty good STOL aircraft in good conditions, but it has high ground pressure which means its stops drag on in the rain, it kicks up more dust than it has to ... all things that don't add to its luster as a rough-field aircraft.

      Russo/Ukraine vs Europe

      An-70 v A-400M

      (excerpted from unpublished Antonov publication, from the blog previously mentioned.)

    2. arkhangelsk

      Your argument is appealing to the unknown...

      ... a common apologist tactic when most of the available information is unfavorable. To which I say a few things:

      1) For big decisions in life, it is rare to have as much info as you feel you need. This fact does not relieve you of the need to do the best with what you do have.

      2) As a rule, superficial stats > (sounds better than) reality. Forecast Stats based off Drawing > Forecast Stats based off Prototype > Stats of Final Product. There have been pleasant surprises, admittedly, but they are the exception. If a plane sounds bad now in prototype, betting on it to turn out good is like betting on "True Communism by 1980".

      3) In the question of basic performance, open sources are generally not too far off; since all weapons must conform to physics, putting values that are too far off home ground (such as the famous "SSN speed >20 knots" crap sung by the USN), don't work.

      4) In the unlikely event that in the classified files there IS a factor that will completely reverse the conclusion, the fault is entirely with the government.

      The very premise of democracy is that the citizen can make broad brush decisions in their best interests. To do that, necessarily they need correct information, and providing it is one of the duties of government agencies in democratic countrires. Having semi-independent reviewers like the GAO or NAO is a step, but ultimately they are no substitute for this availability of information to the open public.

      So, if there is secret info that would reverse the conclusion obtainable from open sources, yet we make the wrong decision b/c it wasn't revealed in the name of secrecy, it would be used as an excuse by government officials to say "leave it all to us", but the fault is really on them - in a democracy at least.

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