The Airbus A400M showing its counter-rotating propellers

French to receive A400M in time for Bastille Day

The French army hopes to receive its first Airbus A400M in time for the country's annual Bastille Day celebrations.

The aircraft, which is about five years behind the original schedule, is also expected to win certification for military use in time for the biennial Paris Air Show starting on June 17, Pierre Bayle said.

The head of EADS unit Airbus Military, Domingo Urena-Raso, confirmed that this timetable was "absolutely reasonable," adding that he expected a total of four deliveries this year, 10 next year and 21 the following year.

France will be the first of the seven nations behind the €20bn project to take delivery of the European military transport and heavy cargo plane with Germany due to receive its first A400M at the end of 2014.

France has ordered 50 of the planes, and Germany 53. The other countries involved are Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and Britain.

"Delivery before July 14 would enable a French crew to pilot the French plane above the parade," Bayle says, referring to the traditional Bastille Day military procession.

Airbus Military had said earlier this year it expected to deliver the first of the airlifters to France in the second quarter.

The four turboprop-engine A400M can carry a helicopter, two armoured vehicles or 116 paratroopers. It can land on short, gravel airstrips, making it suitable for transporting troops and equipment to theatres such as Mali or Afghanistan.

The plane features novel counter-rotating propellers which allow the aircraft to produce more lift and lessens the torque and prop wash on each wing.

The plane has been hit by delays and billions of euros of cost overruns that led to a multinational bailout.

"The A400M got off to a bit of a bumpy start, to say the least, but it's making good progress," Urena-Raso says, adding that there were "no signs" that any of the nations planned to reduce their orders.

He said he hoped the aircraft would fly at the Paris Air Show, adding it had been performing very well in test flights.

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