The body of the first Airbus A400M airlifter began taking shape today with the launch of
the Integrated Fuselage Assembly (IFA) process at a new facility in Bremen, Germany.
The start of IFA also marks the first time that a South African manufactured fuselage component - in this particular instance, the top shell, or "roof" of the aircraft - has been incorporated into a large multi-engine transport plane.
The 32 metre-long fuselage assembly, made up of four major elements delivered from facilities in Germany, South Africa and Turkey, is joined together using state-of-the-art semi-automatic riveting machines.
Joining of these elements takes place in the new 10,600 sq m fuselage assembly plant. This facility represents a EURO EUR95 million investment and is capable of producing a complete A400M fuselage, excluding the nose section, in just eight working days.
The complete IFA process also includes the installation of electrical, hydraulic and air-conditioning systems as well as the cargo door, cargo loading ramp and the cargo handling system. Some cabin linings (made by Aerosud in Centurion near Pretoria), insulation and seats will also be installed in Bremen before the complete assembly is transported to the A400M Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Seville, Spain.
Through its stake in the aircraft programme, South Africa's industry will participate in the design, engineering, industrialisation, manufacture and in-service support of the A400M - the world's most modern military transport aircraft.
Denel and Aerosud's participation in the A400M underpins the South African Government's new aerospace strategy which is characterised by a move away from prime contracting and a focus on niche engineering, design, manufacturing and development services for aerostructures and aircraft systems.
As an Airbus Military A400M partner, South Africa has securing a vital and sustainable role for its industry over the next 30 - 50 years as a provider of engineering and manufacturing services to Airbus and in providing customer support for aircraft in service. South Africa will also acquire eight A400Ms from 2010, bolstering its strategic airlift capabilities and enabling it to support national, regional and multi-national peace and humanitarian missions.
The A400M, of which 192 have been ordered so far (180 for the seven European launch nations, eight for South Africa and four for Malaysia), will first fly in 2008 with deliveries beginning in 2009. The new airlifter will enable air forces around the world to upgrade their airlift capability for both humanitarian and peace-keeping activities.