French defence minister says export potential of A400M huge

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian listens to a reporter's question before addressing a gathering at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi July 26, 2013. Drian is on an official visit to India. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

SEVILLE (Reuters) - France's defence minister said the export potential for EADS's A400M military transporter was "huge", as the 20 billion euro (16 billion pounds) project started delivering aircraft to its founding nations after years of delays.

"I can't give you any figures but there is huge capacity for exports, the political and industrial winds are synchronized," France's defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters on Monday at the sidelines of a ceremony to celebrate the first delivery of the A400M military transport plane.

The troop carrier was conceived in the 1980s to meet a looming shortfall in military transport capacity among seven European NATO nations: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.

The first A400M, which competes with the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules turboprop and the larger Boeing C-17 cargo jet, flew to France on August 1 after a four-year delivery delay.

Le Drian said that the export chances were boosted by the fact that the aircraft was now going into service. "It's difficult to export aircraft if they haven't been tested by the armed forces," he said.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; editing by Kate Holton)