Aviation giant Airbus is upping the ante in its pitch for the Government to choose its A400M transport plane to replace the Air Force’s 65-year-old Hercules fleet.
An A400M Atlas operated by the Royal Air Force will fly to New Zealand for the first time next week as part of the RNZAF’s Air Tattoo at Ohakea Air Base.
As well as commemorating the 80th anniversary of the RNZAF, the plane’s visit will be an opportunity for government officials and RNZAF bosses to see the aircraft in action on this side of the world.
It is one of the frontrunners to replace the RNZAF’s fleet of five Vietnam-era Hercules C-130, which will be phased out over the next five years.
It’s a modern turboprob military transport aircraft that can land on short, unpaved runways, as well as fly to Antarctica and back without refuelling.
Its payload is four times that of the Hercules, and has a maximum takeoff weight that's 70 tonnes heavier.
One of the most appealing features of the A400M for the RNZAF is its ability to fit the NH90 helicopter in the main hold, which none of its current planes can do.
Six countries currently operate a total of 36 A400M aircraft at the moment, including France, Spain, Germany, Malaysia, and the UK. Luxemburg and Belgium will soon take delivery of the plane.
As with most brand new planes, there have been teething problems affecting the engines and the turboprop blades. A computer glitch saw one of them crash in 2015 just before a planned delivery to Turkey's Air Force, killing four people.
It has a price tag of around $NZ230m, but discounts are often given by Airbus for bulk orders, or when competitors offer something more appealing.