PARIS, July 28 (Reuters) - Airbus Group is increasingly confident it can reach the upper end of its target for deliveries of A400M military transport planes this year despite a recent accident that interrupted deliveries, a senior executive told Reuters.
Airbus has said it aims to deliver between 14 and 18 of the troop and cargo aircraft in 2015.
Adjusting for the loss of a plane that crashed during testing in May, the target is effectively 13 and 17 aircraft.
“We still believe we can deliver 17 airplanes this year, or produce 17 airplanes and have them ready for delivery,” Fernando Alonso, executive vice president of military aircraft, said.
“Whether it is 17 or 16, at the end of the day we are going to be very close to where we thought we would be.”
Airbus has so far this year delivered 3 of the aircraft.
The A400M crashed on May 9 on a pre-delivery test flight, killing four crew, after three of its engines froze due to a suspected software problem.
Spain, where the A400M is assembled, halted most production testing for about 6 weeks after the crash.
Chief Executive Tom Enders said in late May the temporary grounding should not affect Airbus’ financial forecasts for 2015. But the project remains overshadowed by development delays that led to a fresh charge of 551 million euros in February.
Alonso, formerly in charge of flight test operations, was appointed in January to run the group’s military aircraft activities including the A400M, unmanned systems and fighters.
Having abandoned its own drone project, Airbus has partnered with Italy’s Finmeccanica and France’s Dassault Aviation to explore development of a medium altitude/long endurance surveillance drone, MALE 2020.
France, Germany and Italy agreed in March to back a two-year definition phase and the companies hope this will lead to full development and initial deliveries early next decade.
But Alonso expressed frustration at lead times involved in developing drones for European market.
“Why does it take so long to define what you want? Why does it take 2 years to decide if this MALE has one or two engines, whether it has propellers or jets? Why does it take 5 years before we build it? I am challenging all that,” Alonso said.
Asked whether Airbus was looking at other options, he told Reuters: “We are looking at everything. We won’t give up the idea that we should be able to do things more simply and cheaply.”
Airbus has denied a recent report that it threatened to leave the project. (Reporting by Tim Hepher, editing by David Evans)