South Africa and Airbus will cooperate in a new aerospace research and technology initiative which aims to identify and develop new advanced applications for the global aerospace industry.

The partnership, signed today between South Africa's Department of Science & Technology (DST) and Airbus, the world’s leading aircraft manufacturer, is a direct outcome of the country’s decision last year to join the Airbus A400M airlifter programme as a partner.

Pilot projects already identified in the global Airbus co-operation strategy with South Africa include research into the development and application of synthetic fuels, natural fibres and light alloys component technologies.

Speaking at the biennial African Aerospace & Defence show in Cape Town, DST Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara, described the agreement as "vital in safeguarding and developing South Africa's competence in the various fields associated with aerospace and aeronautics. We believe that Airbus, a company whose success is built on its innovative use of pioneering technology, is the best partner to support South Africa in the rejuvenation of its aerospace capabilities, including the all-important arena of research and development into new technologies, techniques and solutions."

Airbus' Head of co-operation and Partnerships, Remy Moreau, said: "Our agreement with South Africa a significant element of Airbus' long-term strategy to develop competency through the establishment of a broad collaborative network with key Research & Technology communities around the world."

Implementation of the multi-year co-operative agreement is expected to commence within the next quarter.

In addition, Airbus will contribute to the skills development in South Africa by forging closer links between industry and research institutions with the aim of fostering exchange programmes for students and young graduates in industry and academia.

The partnership is expected to deliver mutual benefits in academic research and industry as it provides opportunities for South African scientific, industrial, university experts and Airbus to explore innovative solutions and advanced technologies that may later be applied in the aeronautical industry.

Airbus in South Africa

Airbus is a long-standing supplier of jetliners to South African Airways, which currently operates a mixed fleet of 29 modern Airbus products, comprising A340-200, A340-300 and A340-600 long-range aircraft on its international routes and A319s on its regional/domestic network.

In 2005, South Africa signed a contract to acquire eight Airbus A400M airlifters to modernise and enhance the airlift capability of the SA Air Force. This has resulted in South Africa becoming a life-long partner in one of the most ambitious transport aircraft programmes ever undertaken. South African industry, represented by Denel and Aerosud as level 1 suppliers have substantial responsibility in design, manufacture and support of every A400M delivered around the world.

To date, Airbus Military has received orders for 192 A400M aircraft from nine countries. The first aircraft is scheduled to fly January 2008 with first deliveries to start in the last quarter 2009. The South African Air Force will receive their 8 aircraft between 2010 and 2012.

In June 2006 Denel delivered the first fuselage top-shells (roof sections) to Airbus’s Bremen, Germany facility where they have since been incorporated into the centre fuselage section of the first aircraft.

Pretoria-based Aerosud is another significant South African supplier to Airbus, producing avionics bay racks, wing components and galleys for the A320 Family - the world’s best selling family of single-aisle twin-engined jetliners - and a variety of components for the A400M.

At the end of July 2006, Airbus had won more than 6 480 orders for new aircraft. Of these, 4 383 have been delivered while the backlog scheduled for delivery represents about five years of manufacturing at current output rates.

Airbus is a leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China, Japan and in the Middle East. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS joint company with BAE Systems.