Malaysia Says Airbus A400M Delivery to be Delayed

Malaysia's order for four Airbus A400M military planes will proceed but delivery will be delayed by at least three years to 2016, a senior official said Friday.The European aircraft manufacturer suffered a major blow on Thursday as South Africa cancelled a multi-billion dollar contract to buy eight of the aircraft because of delays and a huge cost rise.

South Africa and Malaysia were the only two non-European orders for the A400M. Malaysia placed its order in 2005 for the four planes originally due to be delivered in 2013."There is no cancellation, the deal is still on but delivery will be delayed by three or four years," a senior defence ministry official told."The delay is due to the delivery issue, it is not our problem. It is our commitment to boost our existing fleet," added the official, who declined to be named.

Details on how much Malaysia would pay for the planes were not revealed at the time, and the defence official could not specify the cost on Friday.The A400M has been bedevilled by cost overruns and delivery delays over its massive turbo-prop engines. The entire 20-billion-euro (28-billion-dollar) project was put in doubt at one point.

The first planes were to have been delivered at the end of this year, but the programme is running at least three years late.In cancelling the order on Thursday, South African government spokesman Themba Maseko said "the cost escalation would have placed an unaffordable burden on the taxpayer" in an economic downturn.He said the cost skyrocketed from 1.2 billion dollars when the contract for the A400M was agreed five years ago to 6.1 billion dollars now.

A total of 180 of the aircraft have been ordered by seven NATO nations: 60 for Germany; 50 for France; 27 for Spain; 25 for Britain; 10 for Turkey; seven for Belgium and one for Luxembourg.In July, seven European countries agreed to renegotiate their contract to buy the aircraft by the end of the year, thereby providing a lifeline.


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