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A400M military airlifter receives Initial Operational Clearance

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MSN7, the first serial A400M aircraft to be delivered to the French Air Force, during flight test. An Airbus Military photo

SEVILLE, SPAIN (BNS): Achieving a major milestone after 10 years of its development, European aircraft maker Airbus Military's A400M large transport aircraft has received Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) from its seven partner nations.

"The new-generation airlifter received its Type Acceptance at the contractual Initial Operating Clearance (IOC) Standard from OCCAR - the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation, on behalf of the launch nations -- Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom," Airbus Military announced on July 31.

The IOC has paved the way for the large airlifter to be delivered to its first customer nation, France.

This first military standard acceptance is the last step prior to the aircraft acceptance of MSN7, the first serial aircraft, by the French Defence Procurement Agency DGA and its subsequent delivery to the French Air Force in the coming days, the European aerospace firm said.

Development of A400M by seven NATO partner nations has been delayed by several years mainly due to problems with the construction of its huge turbo-prop engines. The engines, designed by Europrop International (EPI), have delayed the delivery of the military transport plane amidst cost overruns in the project, pegged as Europe's biggest defence venture.

The project was originally planned at 20 billion euro but development delay further escalated its cost with several customer nations shelving their original order for the giant plane.

The new transport plane, built to replace the ageing military cargo carriers of several European air forces, is capable of carrying troops, armoured vehicles and helicopters and land on short, unprepared runways.

The A400M's first flight test was carried out in December 2009, nearly two years behind schedule.

Airbus Military has received orders for a total of 170 A400Ms from the seven customer nations.

France is scheduled to get three of the aircraft this year while a fourth A400M is lined up for delivery to Turkey later this year.

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