France Acquires Four Lockheed Martin Corporation C-130s
France has confirmed the purchase of four Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) C-130 aircraft on Friday, after a deal was initially announced in November. The total amount for the four planes, two transports and tankers each, is expected to be around $650 million. In May, the French government made the necessary accommodation in its military budget to allow for the purchase, with the final decision made at the end of the year. The purchase of the C-130s comes in order to make up for a delay in the Airbus A400M, with deliveries expected to begin in 2017. “I confirmed the purchase a few days ago,” Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a visit to a military base in Jordan, from where French jets are carrying out strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria. The planes are intended to be used in support of French troops located in Africa. The news will come as a blow to Airbus, which has produced the A400M transport to replace older planes such as the C-130. The program has been beset by production delays and cost overruns, leading to the French government preferring Lockheed.
On May 9, an A400M crashed during a test flight, resulting in the death of four Airbus employees and injuries to two others. Later in July, Airbus informed its customers that it would not be able to implement all the defensive features advertised for the plane, with upgrades expected to come a year or two later.
While production appears to be back on track and orders are being fulfilled, the loss of a contract from where its headquarters is based to a rival US plane manufacturer, may be seen as a slap on the face. The aircraft, which also provides refueling and electronic surveillance capabilities, has an order backlog of 160 planes, with 14 aircraft already having been delivered.