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

Gov refuses to admit what we'll pay for toss A400M

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French defence minister either unbelievably ignorant or simply lying

Or it would, anyway, if the A400M could do longhaul cost-effectively: but it can't, being a slow, low-altitude turboprop**. It is, as Lord Gilbert says, a truly useless beast. That's why nobody is buying it except the nations who are making it, and why its only hope of ever making any export sales is for the C-17 production line to shut down (even then anyone with any sense would buy Russian).

So why on Earth didn't the A400M get cut in the recent Defence bloodbath? We could have bought 25 Globemasters instead, thus obtaining more than twice as much lift, and still saved ourselves something on the order of £2bn - enough to keep the Harrier jumpjet fleet going for several years, for instance.

Why? Lord Gilbert thinks he knows:

I can tell your Lordships why we are buying the A400M because I want to pay special tribute this afternoon to the defence Minister of France, who is our new best ally in Europe...

Monsieur Morin said at a news conference on Friday.

"Giving it up would have meant Europe saying it wanted to be dependent on the United States in military transport".

How pathetic. We are spending hundreds of millions of pounds on a plane just to make sure that nobody thinks we are dependent on the United States for military transport.

Unfortunately buying the A400M still very much leaves Europe dependent on the US in military transport as the A400M is chock full of American-made stuff. If the Americans ever decide to cut off the supply of spare parts, the A400M will not keep flying for long. M'sieu Morin either doesn't know this, which case he is an idiot unfit to hold his job, or he is a liar.

So there is no actual reason to buy the A400M at all, except to supply work to European factories. It is, as Lord Gilbert says, a make-work project. It is Europe sitting on its own satisfying itself in a fantasy world - "Euro-wank", indeed.

They should have called it the "Sherman"***, not the "Grizzly". ®

*The first six UK C-17s cost "on the order of £2bn" including support. Generally through an aircraft's life support costs at least 3 times what acquisition does. Thus £70m acquisition cost for a UK C-17 is quite reasonable - it may even be a bit harsh.

**Don't just take our word for it - listen to RAF Wing Commander Roger Green:

[The A400M]'s operations will be bound by many of the same restrictions that affect C–130 in the strategic [air bridge] role. In particular, its useful range is limited to sub-strategic sector lengths that will require a greater number of aircrews and support facilities... the aircrew ratio will need to take full account of the strategic role and the increased likelihood of carrying payloads that will require staging and, hence, additional slip crews compared to the C–17 with its longer range.

There is a problematic situation regarding the A400M should it go unserviceable whilst away from a main or RAF support staging base. Because the C–130 is in service with many air forces, and both the C–130 and the C–17 are operated by the USAF, the RAF has been able to take advantage of the mutual assistance that exists between national air forces on a global basis. That is not going to be the case with the A400M and it is likely that outside Europe, RAF A400M operations will have to be supported from its main base with the concomitant operational penalties.

***Rhyming slang: Sherman tank

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