Thursday, March 11, 2010

C-130J vs. A400M...

The time has come. The comparison between the C-130J and the A400M must be made.

This contest will be held on several different levels. First. Cost. Second. Payload. Third. Variants. Fourth. Availability.

The Scoring Table
+1 indicates a clear advantage
0   indicates a neutral position
-1  indicates a clear disadvantage

This is a no brainer. The list cost for the A400M is now up to One Hundred Eighty Four Million Dollars per airplane! The evolutionary C-130J comes in at Sixty Two Million Dollars. +1 for the C-130J -- Because of the extreme price of the A400M (which is actually priced like the C-17...) -1.

This is to the advantage of the bigger airplane. The A-400M has a published payload of 30 tons. What I find interesting is that the airplane is listed with a mission radius, showing the C-130J's 20 tons. What is even more interesting is when you break down the payload to its individual parts...Paratroopers, stretchers etc...
C-130 Payload
A400M Payload
  • 116 fully equipped troops / paratroops,
  • up to 66 stretchers accompanied by 25 medical personnel
A400 +1 C-130J 0
The C-130 has numerous variants..from the KC-130, MC-130, WC-130 and AC-130. The A400M being a new design is only being proposed in the cargo and tanker roles. This will change but it will cost money. C-130 +1 A400m 0

The C-130J is here now. Its ready. Its in production for the US Military and is serving world wide. The A400M has suffered another delay. C-130J +1 A400 -1 (negative score reflects delays)

Final Score.
C-130 J +3
A400 -1

The cost issue, the fact that it just doesn't lift enough to justify the high price, the fact that its been delayed--again and the issue with it just not being as versatile as the C-130J settled this competition. Three C-130J can easily do the work of one A400M and provide more flexibility to a force.

If it were possible to build the A400M and keep the price within 20 million of the C-130J then it would be a bargain. But that's not the case. In summation the A400M costs too much and delivers too little.

I'm going to try and contact THINKDEFENCE to write a rebuttal. In the meantime here are links to his site to provide their views on the A400. Views which are the polar opposite of my own.


  1. C130J & A400M are airlifter of different weight classes.

    EADS - even after suffering nearly $1 billion penalty fee - intends A400M to fill in the niche between C130 & C17.

  2. Yeah that would normally apply but with a cost that approaches that of the C-17, that isn't good enough.

    An in between air lifter would mean lifting significantly more than the C-130 (and 10 tons doesn't impress me) yet cost significantly less than the C-17 (and its only a few million dollars less)

    The A400 fails.

  3. We thought A400M would be axed but a few week ago the partner nations still voted to give it a GO after billing EADS arms & legs for the delay & cost overrun.

    C17 is too big for some whereas C130 is not adequate for others; hence the C17 sharing agreement and the hot-selling C130J. The market niche for a dedicated airlifter in between the two weight classes is there, though closing fast.

  4. EADS didn't get billed! They got more money from the partner nations!

    That's the one saving grace of the F-35. Lockheed Martin got punished to the tune of 614 million dollars withheld because they didn't meet schedule!

  5. "EADS takes hit for A400M in fourth quarter"

    Euro1 billion (>$1 billion) and counting. That's how a proper contractor-customer relation should be like. By comparison it is more like an one-way street in the U.S.

  6. you're misreading the story. EADS took a hit to its stock price but when it comes to the airplane, it got extra money from the partner nations buying it.

    the story notes that EADS lost money because of cost overruns. the partner nations building the plane have not exacted any punishment from EADS except for not giving them as much money as they wanted.

  7. Loss profit -> investors sell -> stock price goes down

  8. The A400 is a big sh1t sandwich that everyone has been invited to take a bite of.

    Just to clarify things, all parties are taking a financial hit and a number of spec areas have been relaxed for the initial iterations

    Will respond to your post in separate comments

  9. Just to get something in early, the A400m is a textbook example of how exactly NOT to develop an aircraft and one from which we must draw many lessons, mainly don’t ever get into partnerships with the French, Germans and Spanish. The main driver for me is the volume and weight increases of current and future equipment, its an unstoppable trend and this makes the C130 yesterdays news, the C17 being too big, costly to operate and unsuitable for SUSTAINED operations in austere locations

    The C130J is at the end of a very long development and those development costs have been well and truly sunk, swallowed by customers and the US government over the years so it is a little unfair to compare a mature aircraft against one that is still in development. That said, the cost differentials are significant but again, don’t discount the industrial benefits, whilst the military customer might not see these benefits the public purse certainly does.

    The A400 is state of the art and has been specifically designed to offer much lower through life costs than the C130 or C160 it is replacing, purchase costs pale into insignificance against the maintenance, training, fuel and other costs over the life of the aircraft.

    So I agree, costs are in favour of the C130 but you can’t just measure capital costs because in reality they are nothing compared to through life costs and here the picture is less clear

    The A400 may be too large for some locations but that is what we have the Chinook for!
    The payload is actually 37 tonnes although this may be reduced by a few hundred kilograms in the first batches
    The main area is volume, its usually space that maxes out before weight limitations. Look at the evolution of the MRAP and engineering plant, types of equipment and vehicles that were previously able to be moved by C130J now cannot. This is one of the main plus points for the A400, volume into austere locations. Its undercarriage has been designed to support repeated landings and takeoffs onto poor surfaces, much better than the C130

    The A400 doesnt need a separate tanker variant because it is ready from day 1, all plumbed in, all you need to do is attach the hose pods. Others will be developed over time no doubt but don’t you think it is a little unfair to compare a mature design some 40 odd years old with something that isn’t actually in service yet?

    Fair one but remind me how long the J model took to get into service.

  10. Quite a few good points here.

    If EADS A400M makes little sense, Embraer KC390 (Brazil) & Kawasaki C2 (Japan) would make even less sense. Suspect that there's some closed door 'must build our own air lifter' reasons - political, industrial, national and/or military - that propel these projects forward despite the obvious matured alternatives already in the market.

    Redirecting to Solomon's new post on same topic here:

  11. Well, we can consider adding Russia-India Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA) - another independent, C-130J class transport on blueprint - to the growing list soon.

  12. interesting. i hadn't heard about that but on second thought i bet its just a dusted off AN-70.

    Now if they could get that developed that would give the A400M a serious run.

  13. Either that OR it is time to ask why on Earth is everyone building their own C130J-class transport?

  14. the only answer i can see is a jobs program that provides proof of existence.

    forgive me injecting my politics into this but if its a make work program then at least we can see the benefits of it. unlike some programs.

  15. Politics is behind most, if not all, of military procurement decisions these days. Factoring it in is being realistic, not being 'political.'

    True. Job creation and national sovereignty count.

  16. what about a weight comparison?the a400 ,at 140 000kgs is surely inaccessible to a large no.of austere airstrips whereas the c130 ,at 70 000 kgs,can surely land anywhere

  17. The USA wont buy the A-400 or the AN-70, Europe wont buy the C-130 or AN-70, Eastern Europe & South Asia would prefer to Joint-venture the Antonov with Russia.

    The US has shut down the C-17 production line twice, but international demand forced it open again and again.

    The USA has a winning combination of the C-17 and C-130 and NATO loves that flexibility.

    The Antonov seems too committed to the funky Propfan. That, and I think its potential customer pool is pretty shallow. After Russia and India, I dont think too many countries would seriously consider it, even though it`s capabilities are closer to the A-400 than the C-130.

    Seems EVERYBODY wants THEIR OWN medium and medium+ transport.

    One thing seems certain: Everyone seems to agree there are enough C-5`s and An-124`s for the foreseeable future. Are there any NEW Military Mega-lifters being planned anywhere?

  18. Blimps (eg DARPA Walrus/HULA) and unmanned transport rotorcraft are two emerging categories. They are more like niche transports, though.

  19. The C-130 is trusted. The A400M is overly expensive and an unknown quantity. Wish the French well but until they prove this aircraft in the real world don't expect the world to beat a path to their door anytime soon.


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