- Optimistic of Asian & Southeast Asian markets
By Sangeeta Saxena
Singapore. 18 February. 2022. It was transports and tankers which ruled the roost at Singapore Air Show for Airbus Defence & Space. The role the A 400M transports and A330 MRTT played during the evacuation in Kabul have made the aerospace major optimistic about the need of the Asian and Southeast Asian markets for these aircraft.
Airbus Defence & Space CEO Michael Schoellhorn reiterating on the importance of signing of the C295 contract with India, emphasised “This contract will support the further development of India’s aerospace ecosystem, bringing investment and 15,000 skilled direct jobs and 10,000 indirect positions over the coming 10 years.” It may be recalled that India has recently signed this contract to replace its aging Indian AirForce Avros. It will be the first Make in India aerospace program in the private sector. The chosen partner Is Tata Advanced Systems. Airbus will deliver the first sixteen aircraft in flyaway condition from its final assembly line in Seville in Spain. Remaining 40 will be assembled by the Tata Advanced Systems Limited in India. Once inducted into the fleet it will make Indian Air Force the 35th operator of C295 in the world.
In a media roundtable at the Singapore Airshow, he was excited about the US AirForce tanker requirement for which US aerospace major has offered Lockheed’s LMXT which will be based on the A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT). As USAF already has Boeing’s KC-46 he responded to the journalists’ query on why the force will go for LMXT by saying it will be comparison between apples and oranges. “Cost is always a concern. If the requirements fit to the KC-46, it would be the smartest decision just to continue with KC-46, but if you look at the needs of the air force in terms of range, in terms of fuel displacement, in terms of fuel offload, and how many air bases you connect to, the KC-46 is limited,” he specified. Lockheed Martin plans to build the A330-200 in Mobile, Alabama facility of Airbus and the military conversion will be done in Marietta, Georgia.
He was confident that there will be more good news this year in terms of business wins in the region. With Indonesia opting for 42 Rafale fighters, 2 A400M’s with options for four more, it’s quite a likelihood that Indonesia might go for the MRTT to keep the needs compatible, consolidated and complete.
Michael was also optimistic about the Airbus and Singapore’s Defence Science and Technology Agency agreement, which they just signed to advance and co-develop the digital solutions for military aircraft platforms. He said , “ this agreement is illustrious partnership driven by innovation and digitisation. We are happy to have a patient journey and look forward to enhancing the operational capability of the end users aircraft fleet.”
On being asked about the status of the Eurodrone, Michael explained that it was a very important. Project and in the changed scenario of warfare it would be a great help to all the nations who are contributing to make it and then to the market, which of course it will create.
With a very stable position of Lockheed Martin and Boeing in the Asiapac region members from the media wanted to understand whether Airbus will be able to make a strong stand in the region. He responded , “ You look at the growth of defence budgets by the region, Asia-Pacific is also a very fast growing area. We see a lot of prospects in momentum. Asia Pacific is the region that is extremely close to our heart because of its technology and innovation orientation.”
He was also upbeat about the order from Kazakhstan of the A 400M. Which in fact would have been surprising for everybody because the region and the CIS nations have a very strong Russian manufactured fleet with all the Russian transports. So for A 400 M to get an order, is an achievement indeed.
When asked about the Development on the FCAS front for Europe, Schoellhorn responded that the FCAS is not just a great Air Force project but one very close to his heart for it gives European sovereignty. He informed that the partner companies are still ironing out the details of the work share agreement they reached last year and Hopefully it will come to a closure very soon.
Michael Schoellhorn has been the chief executive officer of Airbus Defence & Space since first July 2021 and is a member of the Airbus Executive Committee responsible for Airbus’ defense, space, unmanned air services and connected intelligence activities.