FRANKFURT, Germany, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- European defense giant EADS is confident it can turn around its troubled Airbus A400 military transporter program by selling up to 500 of the planes.
"We see a broad global market of 400 to 500 aircraft with good chances for this aircraft to turn profits in the long term," the company's Chief Finance Officer Hans-Peter Ring told the Germany-based Euro am Sonntag weekly.
Ring added that European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. would increase the dividend paid to its shareholders if growth targets are met.
The A400M program was saved last month when its European partner nations agreed to provide a $4.6 billion bailout.
Seven nations have ordered the A400M military transport aircraft from Airbus Military, but most of them, including Germany and Britain, have scaled back orders due to budget pressures and because the plane has become more expensive than anticipated.
Agreed to in 2003, The A400M program was originally to cost $27 billion, but according to a recent study, final costs could now rise to $44 billion. The program is three to four years behind schedule.
A fully operational version won't be ready until 2018, the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper reported last month, citing documents for the defense committee of the German Parliament.
France expects to receive the first planes in 2013, but those will be basic versions; Germany will get the first A400M planes in late 2014, the newspaper said. Airbus will cut back on the sales price of the basic planes and upgrade them at its own expense.
The partner countries desperately need a new freighter plane: Britain is eager to modernize its fleet of Hercules and C-17 carriers, worn by the mission in Afghanistan; and France and Germany want new transport planes to replace their 40-year-old C-160 Transall machines, which are slow and inflexible.
Airbus claims the A400M can carry double the load of the hugely popular Lockheed C130 Hercules, also a four-engine turboprop, and is more fuel efficient than the jet-powered Boeing C-17.
Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Turkey are involved in the program.