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A-400M

Following repeated delays the A400M program is now in full swing, with the first aircraft undergoing final assembly in Seville, Spain. Assembly will be completed later this year and the first flight is scheduled for the first quarter of 2008. To date Airbus Military has received firm orders for 192 aircraft from nine customer nations.

This new, multi-role military airlifter will replace the ageing fleets of C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall in service some of the NATO air forces and other air forces around the world. The A400M almost doubles the payload and volume of the aircraft it will replace. It will be configured for three principal mission profiles - strategic operations (long range, large capacity, high cruise speed) tactical missions (soft-field performance, autonomous ground operation, low speed / low level operations, aerial delivery) "in-theatre" aerial refueling services.


The A400M is capable of operating into unprepared landing strips under adverse meteorological conditions completely independent of ground support. With its 6-wheel main gear and high flotation characteristics, the A400M will be able to land on soft grass fields over low plasticity clay, a performance which far exceeds that of any similar aircraft. Operations from remote sites, with limited or no ground facilities and limited space for maneuver are severe constraints for a tactical airlifter. With turning radius of 30 meters, A400M is capable of operating from simple air bases with limited aprons and taxiways. The aircraft is capable of reversing up a 2% slope on a hard surface, under its own power, (1% slope on soft surfaces loaded with tactical Maximum Takeoff Weight, in hot and high conditions.)

The aircraft is capable of operating into unprepared landing strips under adverse meteorological conditions completely independent of ground support. With its 6-wheel main gear and high flotation characteristics, the A400M will be able to land on soft grass fields over low plasticity clay, a performance which far exceeds that of any similar aircraft. Operations from remote sites, with limited or no ground facilities and limited space for maneuver are severe constraints for a tactical airlifter. With turning radius of 30 meters, A400M is capable of operating from simple air bases with limited aprons and taxiways. The aircraft is capable of reversing up a 2% slope on a hard surface, under its own power, (1% slope on soft surfaces loaded with tactical Maximum Takeoff Weight, in hot and high conditions.) For most missions the A400M would require less than 1000 meters of usable runway.

On tactical airlift missions the A400M is capable of air dropping paratroops and equipment via parachute or gravity extraction. It can drop a single load up to 16 tons, or multiple loads up to 25 tons of total weight or simultaneously drop 116 paratroops and a wedge load of 6 tons. Performing Very Low Level Extraction (VLLE) the A400M will be capable of dropping up to three individual loads weighing 6.35 tons each, on a low level pass (15 ft above ground). Configured into a tactical tanker, the A400M will carry two standard air-to-air refuelling pods under the wings or loaded with a centre-line pallet-mounted hose drum unit that will be fitted in the rear cargo bay, providing a fuel flow of 1800 kg/min. Each of the pods will provide a fuel flow of up to 1200 kg/min, supporting helicopters, turbo-props or jets. To enhance the fuel volume, up to two optional cargo bay fuel tanks (CBT) can also be installed, providing up to 12 tons of extra capacity. These additional tanks connect directly to the aircraft's fuel system and thus become part of the A400M's computer-controlled centralized fuel management system. Utilizing the extra pallets and its own fuel, the aircraft will be able to carry up to 58 tons of fuel.

Compared to the C-130, the A400M is designed to be more versatile and accommodate bigger loads, ranging from armored combat vehicles and artillery to attack and utility helicopters and heavy engineering vehicles. The A400M cargo box dimensions are optimized for the transportation of heavy vehicles and / or cargo pallets, as well as being easily configured to carry troops, paratroops, or Medevac. Its cargo handling system allows for pallets and containers to be loaded / unloaded by a single loadmaster, without any special ground support equipment. An optional 5-tonne crane can be installed at the rear of the fuselage allowing loading and unloading of fully loaded military pallets.

The A400M cargo bay can accommodate up to 116 fully equipped troops / paratroops, seated in four longitudinal rows. Paratroops can be dropped from the rear doors or from the ramp. The hold can also be converted for a medical evacuation role (MEDEVAC) allowing up to 66 stretchers accompanied by 25 medical personnel.

The cargo hold provides enough space to carry nine standard military pallets (88in x 108in) including two loaded on the ramp area. Civil pallets (125in-wide) can also be loaded using an optional roller/restraint system. Simultaneously 54 troops can be seated in the side-wall seats. The pallet roller/ restraint system can easily be stowed to provide a flat floor for tracked or wheeled vehicle loading.

First Flight

The newest European Military Transport Aircraft, Airbus A400M took off on its maiden flight today from Seville Airport in Spain on December 11, 2009, with Airbus Chief Test Pilot Military, Edward “Ed” Strongman at the controls and Experimental Test Pilot Ignacio “Nacho” Lombo in the right-hand seat. Today's long awaited first flight lasted 3 hours 47 minutes embarks on an extensive test program that will include about 3,700 hours of flying by an eventual five aircraft conducted between now and entry-into-service at the end of 2012.The A400M will receive both civil certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and military certification and qualification. Airbus is planning on an initial production of 184 aircraft that have so far been ordered by Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom with initial deliveries planned for late 2012.

airbus A400M
Airbus A400M shown at the Faranborough 2010 Air Show

 

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