Airbus delivers 100th composites-intensive A400M

Delivery to the Spanish Air Force adds to several additional achievements, including the A400M’s new certified capabilities and 100,000 flight hours recorded for its global fleet.
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Airbus A400M.

Photo Credit: Airbus

Airbus (Toulouse, France) reported on May 25 that it has reached 100 A400M deliveries with MSN111, the tenth A400M for the Spanish Air Force. The composite-intensive aircraft performed its ferry flight on May 24 from Seville to Zaragoza, Spain, where the Spanish A400M fleet is based.

In the same week, Airbus says the A400M global fleet also achieved the 100,000 flight-hours landmark performing missions worldwide for all eight customer nations. Further, all A400M operators have been able to operate the aircraft intensively for COVID-19 emergency response missions, as well as conduct joint, collaborative operations. The aerospace company believes these milestones clearly demonstrate the maturity of the A400M program on all fronts.

For example, recently the A400M successfully conducted a major helicopter air-to-air refueling certification flight test campaign in coordination with the DGA (French Directorate General of Armaments), completing the majority of its certification objectives, including the first simultaneous refueling of two helicopters.

The A400M is already able to drop up to 116 paratroopers, via simultaneous dispatch from the side doors with automatic parachute opening, or from the ramp with automatic parachute opening or in freefall, day and night, Airbus says. Recent tests were completed in Spain, in collaboration with the U.K. Royal Air Force (RAF) parachute test team, to expand up to 25,000 feet (7,600 meters) for automatic parachute opening, and up to 38,000 feet (11,582 meters) for free fall.

The A400M also completed additional tests to expand its air drop capability, including multiple platforms with parachute extraction (23 tonnes). France and Spain participated in these flights. Another way to deliver cargo on austere airstrips without handling equipment was also certified: Combat offload of up to 19 tonnes of pallets (one pass) or 25 tonnes (two passes) on paved or unpaved airstrips.

According to the company, the A400M may prove to be a game-changer for military airlift and humanitarian missions.

Airbus further notes the aircraft’s additional new, decisive milestone after the certification flights of its Automatic Low Level Flight capability for Instrumental Meteorological Conditions (IMC). A400M is said can use navigation systems and terrain databases, without the need of a terrain-following radar, which is contended to be the first for a military transport aircraft. This makes the aircraft less detectable in hostile areas and less susceptible to threats while conducting operations in hostile environments.


A400M operation

In terms of collaborative missions, the Spanish Air Force supported the French Armée de l´Air in the transport of a Caracal helicopter from Cazaux, France, to Tucson, Arizona, using a Spanish A400M. The flight was used by CLAEX (Spanish Logistics Center for Armament and Experimentation) and CECTA (Air Transport Cargo Evaluation Cell) to validate the loading process on Spanish A400Ms.

Key military missions last year included the delivery of almost 40 tonnes of food, water, fuel and ammunition by a single French A400M to troops based in the Sahel region of Africa, the first A400M to airdrop supplies in a country outside of Europe.

In addition, Germany reportedly became the first A400M customer to use the A400M as a tanker in real missions providing support in the “Counter Daesh” operation in Jordan. 

Civil emergency response roles were also numerous for the A400M during 2020-2021, including civil medical evacuation (medevac) duties, as well as for transporting key medical relief supplies. Airbus says the versatility of the aircraft also allowed a rapid conversion to medevac configuration, where installed critical care modules provided airborne-intensive care units.

According to the company, the A400M may prove to be a game-changer for military airlift and humanitarian missions.