You’d think they would know this

Surprise new costs for the long-troubled Airbus A400M military jet sent the European planemaker’s profits plunging last year despite a rise in commercial aircraft deliveries.

From the Seattle Times. Isn’t Boeing up there somewhere?

You’d think they would recognise those propellers in their own picture of the plane…..

14 comments on “You’d think they would know this

  1. Just another demonstration (if any were needed) of the lack of fact checking / basic knowledge / laziness of the average hack.

    Gell-Mann amnesia is out there and we’re all guilty to some extent I suppose.

    Wet streets cause rain.

  2. The A400M is yet another military procurement corker, up there with the Eurofighter and the Bowman radio system and the 20+ years and hundreds of millions we wasted on FRES just so the MoD could eventually decide to buy a more or less off-the-shelf light tank, then pretend it’s a major innovation.

    Airbus is years late and the planes are dogged with pants-ruiningly terrifying bugs and promised features that may never be implemented. Yet they have the cheek to bring out the corporate begging bowl to demand more transfusions of taxpayer cash.

    You’d think building a new medium sized military transport plane, while a serious engineering job, wouldn’t exactly be rocket surgery. The kind of thing 1940’s and 50’s boffins used to cook up with a few months poring over slide rules and clay models.

    Why is military procurement broken? And when will we learn to stop participating in multinational development boondoggles?

  3. “Why is military procurement broken?”

    Bureaucracy. Politicians and senior military officers who can’t decide what they actually want. Politicians who demand cost savings that save a few million pounds from a multi-billion pound contract by removing vital capabilities – not so much “penny wise, pound foolish” as “millions wise, billions foolish”. Industrial policy to protect jobs in the UK, which means some companies will always get more work no matter how badly they did on the last job. The international element, which means lots of competing bureaucracies with different requirements and the need to provide work for multiple companies in different countries. Finally, a dearth of politicians with military experience combined with the absence of a direct threat to the UK mainland that requires big expensive weapon systems creates a certain indifference as to whether the kit actually works.

  4. Does anyone know how much of the output of the UK defence industry actually goes to the UK rather than to our valued allies such as Saudi Arabia, Brunei etc?

  5. The A400M is a turboprop, which means it has propellers powered by jet engines. So it is a jet, but with props.

  6. Chris, the props are not there to fan the passengers. They are the means of propulsion, powered by a set of turbines.

  7. AndrewZ – “Bureaucracy. Politicians and senior military officers who can’t decide what they actually want.”

    It doesn’t look like this is true in this case. This project has been hit by politics – there was no European turboprop capable of moving the plane fast enough and the French failed to produce one that worked, so they wanted a Canadian engine but that was rejected for a local alternative. It has been hit by political developments – the USSR collapsed. This project began in 1982 remember. Which means pretty much everyone’s entire useful career has been spent on one useless plane. So the numbers of planes needed was drastically cut.

    But mainly this is a story of a group of over-selling and under-performing airplane producers. They promised a plane that would work. They could not deliver. The military has been consistent that they want a plane that can lift a decent armoured vehicle. They did not change their minds about that. They were promised one. Airbus has told them they can’t have it. They were promised in-flight refueling abilities. Airbus said they couldn’t, then when they were threatened with cancellation, suddenly discovered that they could. The French bought some American planes.

    The best summary of this project comes from a British minister, who said “The A400M is a complete, absolute wanking disaster, and we should be ashamed of ourselves. I have never seen such a waste of public funds in the defence field since I have been involved in it these past 40 years.” He is wrong of course. There are much bigger disasters out there.

  8. Diogenes – “It’s about time someone invented the Sopwith Camel”

    That misses the point. A large part of this is giving European companies massive subsidies for their research which they can then sell to other people in other products. They need to push the limits of the technology, whether they need to or not, so they can develop new technology.

    They are competing with the Lockhead Hercules. A plane that was designed with the Korean War in mind. An order went out in 1951. It first flew in 1954. Buying some off the shelf would be cheap and simple. Better really because they would be able to operate better with the US and every other country that uses them. But no, they need to give lots of my money to enable geeks to play Doom all day long.

    So Airbus was sent an order in 1982. The first flight was in 2009. A lot of high tech industry has been deluged with money inbetween.

  9. Isn’t the problem that, as with the Dc3s (probably the oldest aircraft of which a reasonable number are still in some sort of commercial service), the only possible substitute for a Hercules is another Hercules.

    Hence airbus has had to try and justify 30 years re-inventing the wheel because they’ve been asked to provide a Hercules without being allowed to use all the vital bits that actually make a Hercules work in real world military situations.

  10. @Diogenes

    The A400M is powered by jet turbine engines, so it isn’t technically incorrect to refer to it as a jet aircraft. But it’s confusing (to the layman) and not (therefore) normal parlance.

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