In 2000, what we now know as A400M, was less well defined, was NOT a launched industrial programme.
The UK really signed on to be a part of this industrial project, but there was and is a need for something in the A400M class with the RAF.
There had been great UK service interest through all the long line of proposals, arguments, lack of funding, but the RAF legacy Herks, very hard worked, needed a boost in the near term, bringing some UK contractors on to C-130J was a bait by LM
, but one not really needed, the only answer definately on the horizon then (1994), was the modernised C-130.
But having a capability beyond C-130J was desired, with the then FLA project mired again, not likely to provide an aircraft until the latter half of the new decade if the project and partners stayed together at all, the RAF leased 4 C-17's.
While they now have 5 C-17's, to be owned rather than leased, and maybe 3 more may follow, circumstances have changed since 2000.
What was then a niche heavy lift capability, likely an interim until A400M arrived in numbers to provide something beyond C-130J, but back to leasing AN
-124's for that niche heavy lift, has by events since 2001, become far from niche.
The RAF C-17's do a lot more than their most frequent sightings in the media, bringing bodies home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the projected use of them in 2000 has gone off the scale, way off the scale.
However, assuming the EADS aircraft proves to be successful, there have long been rumours that then, the RAF would sell their C-130J fleet (the initial 25 A400M's replacing remaining legacy Herks), for more A400M's, both increasing capability, cutting a type from the supply chain and getting a good price probably for by then around 15 year old C-130J's.
After all, the initial requirement for FLA for what followed and became A400M, is 40-45 airframes for the RAF.
The service also might well be taking a look at the A400M's planned air to air refuelling capability, via wing pods, if those 14 new A330's get too busy in a surge operation.