The project began as the Future International Military Airlifter (FIMA) group, set up in 1982 by Aerospatiale, British Aerospace, Lockheed, and MBB to develop a replacement for the C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall. Varying requirements and the complications of international politics caused slow progress. In 1989 Lockheed left the grouping and went on to develop an upgraded Hercules, the C-130J. With the addition of Alenia and CASA the FIMA group became Euroflag.
The partner nations, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Belgium, and Luxembourg, signed an agreement in May 2003 to buy 212 aircraft. These nations decided to charge OCCAR with the management of the acquisition of the A400M.
Following the withdrawal of Italy and revision of procurement totals the revised requirement was for 180 aircraft, with first flight in 2008 and first delivery in 2009. On 28 April 2005, South Africa joined the partnership programme with the state owned Denel Aerospace Systems receiving a contract for fuselage components.
The Airbus A400M will increase the airlift capacity and range compared to the aircraft it was originally set to replace, the older versions of the Hercules and Transall. Cargo capacity is expected to double over existing aircraft, both in payload and volume, and range is increased substantially as well. Like Airbus' other aircraft, the A400M will have a full glass cockpit (all information accessed through large colour screens) and fly-by-wire and as such will represent a technological leap compared to the older C-130s and C-160s that many countries now operate.
Originally the SNECMA M138 turboprop (based on the M88 core) was selected to power the A400M. Airbus Military issued a new Request for Proposal in April 2002 which Pratt & Whitney Canada and Europrop answered. Although industry sources indicated the P&WC proposal was the winning bid Airbus Military announced, after evaluating both designs, the selection of the Europrop TP400-D6 in May 2003.
The A400M's wings are primarily carbon fibre reinforced plastic. The cockpit features a fly-by-wire flight control system with sidestick controllers and flight envelope protection. High performance turboprop engines will allow operation in a civil air traffic control environment.
The A400M assembly at the Seville plant of EADS Spain started in Q1 2007. Airbus plans to manufacture thirty aircraft per year. The major assemblies arrive by Airbus Beluga transporters. The four EuroProp TP400-D6 flight test engines have been delivered in late February 2008 for the first Airbus A400M. According to EADS the first "static tests" of a dedicated A400M complete structure were started on 14th March in Spain.
The first test flight, scheduled until recently for Q1 2008, has been postponed due to repeated program delays, schedule adjustments and mounting financial pressures. EADS announced in early January 2008 that continued development problems with the engines has resulted in a delay to Q2 2008 before the first engine test flights on a C130 testbed aircraft. The first flight of the aircraft, previously scheduled for July 2008 timeframe is now TBD, but a best estimate would be late 2008. There are also stories in the international Aviation Press, denied by Airbus Executives, that the aircraft faces other design and or development issues related to wings and fuselage components. Civil certification under EASA CS-25 will be followed later by certification for military purposes.
On 9 December 2004, the South African Air Force announced it was to purchase eight A400Ms at the total cost of €837 million, and had options on 6 more, with South Africa therefore joining the Airbus Military team as an industrial partner. Deliveries are expected from 2010 to 2014.
Canada issued a tender on 5 July 2006 for 17 new tactical airlifters to replace their old CC-130E models. The A400M would be competing for the order with the Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules. Airbus has proposed the A400Ms would serve as the Canadian Force's mid-range transports. Instead, the government has purchased 4 Boeing C-17s as long-range transports, the first of which was delivered into CF inventory on August 12th 2007  and on June 29th 2007 issued the RFP to Lockheed Martin for procurement of the C-130J, This effectively eliminates the A400M from any hope EADS/Airbus entertained about Canada purchasing the A400M when it finally becomes available.  On 16 January 2008, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced a 1.4 billion deal with Lockheed-Martin to acquire 17 Hercules.
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- ↑ Airbus Military
- ↑ A400M Countdown #4 - A PROGRESS REPORT FROM AIRBUS MILITARY
- ↑ Fourth Engine for A400M Brings First Flight Closer
- ↑ A400M structural static tests begin
- ↑ Ares Homepage
- ↑ Airbus Military signs agreement with Chile Airbus Military Website
- ↑ Airlift Capability Project - Tactical MERX website - Government of Canada
- ↑ Lockheed wins $4.9B contract: Tories quietly pick U.S. aerospace giant to replace Hercules Ottawa Citizen 22 November 2006
- ↑ Government announces $1.4 billion transport plane deal with U.S. firm