RJMAZ wrote:Does anyone know what oversized items Europe is transporting by air?
If it is only a range issue and not a cargo bay size issue then an extended range A400M could be an option here. It is much easier to add range than making the entire fuselage wider. The A400M at MTOW has an incredibly short takeoff run of less than 1,000m. The C-17 at MTOW requires 2,500m!
Now if Airbus removed the austere, tactical and short runway requirements it could significantly increase range. Fit some higher speed rated tyres and the A400M has enough excess thrust that it could easily takeoff at 160t MTOW in a shorter distance than a C-17 at MTOW. Weight saved from removing the austere runway requirement could be spent on increasing the MTOW. Bringing the G limit from the 3G tactical rating down to 2.5G strategic rating would reduce the peak load allowing the MTOW to increase.
The A400M has a very heavy empty weight as a proportion of the MTOW compared to other airlifters so I think it has headroom. With a 160t MTOW it can now carry max payload and max fuel at the same time. Range has been increased by approximately 50% with any given payload. Add some big winglets as they usually work well on longer flight lengths. Now the operating cost comparison with the C-17 has been reversed. Three A400ER flights would be cheaper than two C-17 flights.
With 90+% commonality with the existing A400M fleet developing an A400ER could be an option.
In theory the A400M could evolve all the way up to a 200t MTOW. The landing gear is very strong and has a low pavement loading so this is not a limiting factor. Thrust is also not a limiting factor. The wing would simply need to be made longer. All of the extra span could be added in the tip section of the wing with adding strengthening through the wing and central wingbox. The better fuel efficiency of a turboprop should allow a 200t MTOW A400M to get mighty close to the range of a 265t C-17ER. The C-17ER can carry the A400M max payload approximately 5,000nm while the A400M can carry it only 1,800nm. A 200t MTOW A400M could carry it 4,000+nm. Commonality might still be 80+% and development cost would be low enough that they would only need 50 frames to cover the cost.
I think you could take any plane, whether the 767 or the c-141 or any other in the size class, and make the necessary changes to make it into a strategic lifter and it would cost about the same as what you suggest to do to the a400m.
It was designed to be a tactical plane, that is why it has such a high empty weight to MTOW ratio, and why it's range to MTOW is similarly low. those short stubby wings and very heavy structure don't come cheap. They are fundamental design choices that cannot simply be undone by raising the MTOW, you'd end up with a very heavy design that would be bad at everything, when you could have spent the same on a new design.