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If the reader takes an in-depth look around the glossy website for the Airbus A400M, he would gather that the A400M combines the capability to carry strategic loads with the ability to deliver even into tactical locations with small and unprepared airstrips and can act as a frontline-tanker. One aircraft that can do the work of three – the A400M. Seemingly so adaptable, the only thing this aircraft cannot do is give birth, and they might be working on that. The A400M was designed to be the European answer to the American Lockheed transporter, and, unfortunately; we now know that the answer turned out to be, as usual with things designed by a Multi-National Committee, a mobile disaster area.
As stated in the Register article, the costs have escalated so far that no-one dared state the true prices, because if they did, the whole project would have been cancelled forthwith. We were told that the planes would cost £2.300,000,000 (£2.3 Billions) for 25 aircraft: or £92 million for each plane. The true cost is now officially secret, but is more than £3.2 Billions ( a rise of forty per cent).
Lord Gilbert, a Labour peer, is quoted in Hansard as stating:-
It will come as no surprise to your Lordships that I regard the decision on the A400M as the most bone-stupid in the 40 years that I have been at one end or other of this building. It is an absolutely idiotic decision. We have a military airlift fleet of C-17s and C-130s. We have total interoperability with the United States, which flies the same combination of airlift planes, apart from a few clapped-out Galaxies.
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. The New York Herald Tribune on 6 November states:
“The A400 M is an emblematic program which Europe could not abandon”,
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.
We are told that the new arrangement we will have with our friends across the Channel will in no way dilute our relations with our best friends the Americans. Yet the defence Minister involved in our new great alliance with the French has this attitude. Another question is coming to the Minister asking whether Monsieur Morin has many other emblematic symbols in the field of defence procurement that we will have to acquire just to prove that we are not dependent on the United States for transport.
Your Lordships will be familiar with the phrase “barking mad”. A few years ago, some wit invented the phrase “Dagenham mad”. When asked what it meant he said it was three stops beyond Barking. This is not “Barking mad” nor “Dagenham mad”: it is “Upminster mad”. It is at the end of the line. You cannot go any further: it is sheer madness. The Minister responsible is sitting here. He is carefully not identifying himself and I am not going to be so cruel as to identify him either.
We have taken delivery of 20 A400M transporters, but only two are flight-worthy at any time. The engines fail, the propellers are crap, the gearboxes fail, and this is what the British taxpayers paid for, and the M.O.D. wanted?