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June 1 (Reuters) - Airbus faces an unprecedented challenge in ramping up production to meet 2018 delivery targets following engine delays, and must eventually overhaul a manufacturing system that belongs to a "bygone age," the jetmaker's new president told staff on Friday.
"We have a battle plan in place for this year and the engine manufacturers are working hard to meet their commitments. Still, we know it will be challenging," Airbus Commercial Aircraft President Guillaume Faury said in an interview for internal circulation seen by Reuters.
"Delivering 80 to 90 aircraft every month in the second half of the year has never been done before. In the long term we must overhaul a single-aisle production system that belongs to a bygone age when high-rate production of aircraft wasn't needed."
Airbus has been hit by delays in getting engines from United Technologies unit Pratt & Whitney and CFM International, co-owned by Safran and General Electric.
It delivered 172 aircraft in the first four months of the year, lagging behind the pace needed to hit a full-year goal of 800 even though deliveries traditionally speed up in the final quarter.
Faury was speaking to mark 100 days since taking over the European group's planemaking division from Fabrice Bregier.
Echoing his predecessor, former auto executive Faury signalled a push to exploit digital techniques as Airbus and U.S rival Boeing shift towards mass production of jet aircraft that are far ahead of standards previously seen in commercial aerospace.
"Ultimately, we want to move to a position where our aircraft and the manufacturing system are designed as one," he said.
Boeing is pioneering a new digital-based manufacturing system for a potential new mid-market jet, which could later be adapted to an eventual successor to the 737, its best-selling single-aisle model. Airbus is however expected to make the leap to the next generation in one step, starting from around 2030.
In a separate interview with French newspaper Les Echos, Faury said no decision had been taken on whether to increase production of the single-aisle A320 to 70 jets a month, compared with the current level of 50 and a target of 60 set for 2019.
Such levels of production are justified by strong demand from airlines, but Airbus is still studying whether its supply chain is strong enough, Faury said. Any step-up in production beyond 60 would happen at the start of the next decade, he added. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Michael Perry and Sunil Nair)