Anyone who’s followed the force generation challenges faced by multilateral operations recently knows that there’s a huge shortage these days in strategic and tactical airlift. For the most part, that’s meant a desperate need for helicopters. The kind of desperate need that led the EUFOR Chad mission to accept a Russian offer of six helicopters, plus support crew, because none were forthcoming from EU member states. The NATO mission in Afghanistan faced similar difficulties.
But it’s also meant a shortage in strategic and heavy air transport. The EUFOR Chad mission, for instance, was also required to lease planes from a Ukrainian contractor to transport troops and equipment. The Airbus A400M was meant to address that need, and to give you an idea of how serious a need it is, consider that Germany has already pre-ordered 60 of them, France 50, Spain 27, Britain 25, and Belgium seven. Even Luxembourg, whose army would be hard pressed to fill one to capacity, has ordered one.
But according to Defense Industry Daily, production delays and Airbus’ generally dismal financial straits have now threatened the program’s viability, leading the company to request waivers of the late delivery penalties built into the program’s contracts.
Another thing to consider in terms of the widely anticipated “era of persistent conflict” requiring farflung, boot-heavy interventions around the globe to shore up vectors of instability: before you put the boots on the ground, you’ve got to get the boots to the ground.