Page last updated at 17:50 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 18:50 UK

Fresh backing for troubled plane

Artist impression of the Airbus A400M
The plane had been due to make its maiden flight in March

Defence ministers from seven European nations have pledged to continue to support the much delayed Airbus A400M military transport aircraft project.

The ministers from Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK now hope to agree a new contract for the plane by the end of the year.

There had been fears that some countries would decide to walk away from the troubled project.

The A400M's maiden flight is a year late due to technical and budget woes.

A second deadline of March this year was also missed.

The plane is not now due to take to the skies until the end of this year.

'Good news'

"We hope to save the programme. We have decided to open a renegotiation," said the UK's Defence Procurement Minister Quentin Davies.

The A400M is Airbus' equivalent to Boeing's delayed 787 Dreamliner
Aviation analyst Saj Ahmad

The A400M project was launched in 2003, with orders for 180 planes so far.

The plane was designed as a replacement for the main Nato military transport aircraft, the US-built Lockheed Martin Hercules.

"I am convinced this programme will be re-launched, which will be good news for the trade balance of our countries because I am convinced it has enormous export potential," said French Defence Minister Herve Morin.

Aviation analyst Saj Ahmad of FleetBuzz Editorial said Airbus will find itself under "immense pressure" to deliver to the new contractual arrangements.

"The A400M is Airbus' equivalent to Boeing's delayed 787 Dreamliner," he added.

"However, the key difference is that Boeing was caught out just prior to the 787 first flight, the A400M hasn't even been in proximity of a runway."

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