France and Germany have decided to wait another six months before determining the fate of the troubled A400M military transport plane. The €20 billion project, which is Europe's biggest collaborative defense program and is intended to replace the aging airlift capacity of European militaries, has been marred by technical problems, and is now three years behind schedule and nearly €6 billion over budget.
The original contract for the A400M was signed in 2003 and called for the delivery of 180 aircraft to seven partner nations starting in 2009. But Airbus, the plane maker owned by EADS, missed a March 31 deadline for A400M's first test flight. By failing to achieve that milestone, Airbus is now technically in default of the contract.
In April, the partner nations agreed to a three-month moratorium in order to renegotiate the project. By extending that moratorium by another six months, France and Germany, which account for 110 of the 180 aircraft orders by European buyers, have sparked hopes that the A400M can be rescued. But that is by no means certain.