Germany's defense minister criticizes Airbus over new A400M delays

By Reuters

Jan 24, 2015 03:48 AM EST

Germany's defense minister has criticised Airbus (AIR.PA) over new delays in the delivery of A400M military transport planes, saying the company had a serious problem with product quality.

The German armed forces took delivery in December of the first of a total of 53 A400M aircraft that it has ordered, with a further five due to be handed over this year.

However, the defense ministry said last week there were signals from European defense equipment agency OCCAR, which is negotiating with Airbus on behalf of governments seeking to buy the planes, that A400M deliveries could be delayed.

"The Airbus announcement of further A400M delays hits us at the most inconvenient time," Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told Der Spiegel magazine in excerpts of an interview to published in Saturday's edition.

"At stake is not just the image of the company, but also Germany's reliability as an alliance partner," she added.

"Airbus seems to have a serious problem with its understanding of product quality."

The minister said she expected Airbus to make every effort to minimise the impact of the delays on the armed forces.

German military inspectors checked the first A400M plane in November and listed 875 defects, including missing insulation of electric cables and leaked hydraulic oil on the main landing gear and tires, Spiegel reported, citing internal documents.

A spokesman for Airbus said the company was in contact with its clients on the matter and declined to give further comment.

This week a company executive said Airbus' Defence and Space division will reveal a revised 2015 delivery schedule for the A400M at the end of February. In total, 170 A400Ms have been ordered by seven nations - Germany, Belgium, Britain, France, Luxembourg, Spainand Turkey. 

After saying last year that Germany would take a more active role in global affairs, von der Leyen was forced to acknowledge that so much military equipment was in a state of disrepair that Germany was unable to meet its NATO commitments.

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