The first Airbus A400M military transport plane, to which South African firms Denel Aerostructures and Aerosud contribute components, was officially handed over to the French air force on Monday.
The A400M is an all-new military airlifter designed to meet the needs of the world's armed forces in the twenty-first century. The aircraft’s advanced technologies allow it to fly higher, faster and further, while retaining high manoeuvrability, low speed and short, soft and rough airfield capabilities, Denel explained.
Under a renegotiated contract announced in September 2012, Denel was responsible for two A400M work packages involving the design, engineering and fabrication of the wing-to-fuselage fairing and the fuselage top-shells.
The wing-to-fuselage fairing was the largest single aerostructure component ever produced in South Africa and provided an aerodynamic shroud over sensitive equipment located in the centre wing part of the A400M, Denel said.
In June, Airbus Military placed a third multimillion-rand contract with the company during the Paris Airshow in France, for the manufacturing of the “ribs, spars and swords”, the inside structure of the giant airlifter’s distinctive tail section.
The R200-million work package was contracted to run over the entire life of the A400M programme.
“It demonstrates Airbus Military’s confidence in Denel and South Africa’s design and manufacturing capabilities, coupled with our ability to deliver on time and within budget,” Denel chairperson Zoli Kunene said.
Meanwhile, Aerosud manufactured the cockpit lining, the cabin lining, and the wing-tip, and Cobham South Africa in Westlake, Cape Town, supplied the satellite communications antennae and underlying systems for the A400M aircraft.
The delivery event was broadcast live via video streaming from Seville, Spain, giving Denel employees the opportunity to see the parts of the aircraft they produced during the aircraft’s first flight.
“This is a celebration of South African innovation and our high-tech manufacturing capabilities. We are participating with great success and confidence in the most ambitious multinational aircraft production process ever.
“It shows that we have the skills and capacity in South Africa to manufacture sophisticated aerostructures and we are ready to contribute to the growth of the home-grown aerospace industry,” Denel CEO Riaz Saloojee said.