With the A400M rapidly maturing, let’s take a look at what different air forces have been using the air-lifter for.
The Malaysian fleet of four is now in service; the United Kingdom has received 18 of the 22 it ordered and will soon be forming its second operational squadron. Germany has 16 A400Ms; France operates 13; Turkey has five that have been flying intensively; and in the last year, Spain began operations with two aircraft now in service and more to come. All told, the A400M fleet has flown more than 29,000 hours say Airbus.
A400M humanitarian relief operations
After Hurricane Irma’s devastation in September 2017, several European countries dispatched A400Ms with disaster relief supplies to the Caribbean. The UK, France and Germany each deployed two A400M airlifters; Germany’s aircraft were sent on behalf of the Netherlands to evacuate citizens to Europe.
While several types of military airlifters were used, the A400Ms showed their worth – being able to cross the Atlantic more quickly than the C-130 Hercules aircraft that also were sent to the region, while carrying a useful load say the MoD.
The Airbus-built transports were able to make the trip with only one refuelling stop instead of the three required by C-130s, and arrived carrying more cargo. The Royal Air Force delivered equipment such as tractors, and the French Air Force carried an Airbus-produced Puma helicopter on one deployment flight – a highly valuable resource to have on-site at the beginning of a relief operation.
Once in the Caribbean, the A400Ms proved extraordinarily effective with their ability to operate from shorter airfields, performing inter-island flights where they could carry nearly three times as much cargo as the C-130.
The A400M in a military role
Having more than proved itself in HADR operations, the A400M is first and foremost a military transport. The RAF increasingly is inserting its A400Ms into logistic duties, supporting coalition forces in the Middle East; while the French Air Force has been using it in the same way in Mali and Niger – where the A400M is demonstrating the airlifter’s positive results from unpaved runways.
The Turkish Air Force, having upgraded from earlier-generation twin-engine C-160 Transall airlifters, has been extensively using its A400Ms, deploying to Mogadishu for the evacuation of Turkish citizens, and flying to Russia in support of VIP operations.
As the A400M increasingly becomes integrated into worldwide air forces, this Airbus-manufactured aircraft is setting the standard for air mobility operations.
Recently, Airbus said buyers had agreed to work on contractual changes, including a ‘new roadmap’ for development and completion of capabilities for the A400M, in simple terms less promised capabilities are to be integrated and delivery is to be slowed.
Airbus had already taken a writedown of 1.2 billion euros one year ago after the A400M suffered engine gearbox problems and delays in fitting parachuting capacity and advanced defences. It is understood that Airbus has been urging partner nations to cap its exposure to fines caused by technical delays to the programme.
We understand that Airbus is expecting the rate of production to fall from 19 per year to 15 in 2018 and 11 in 2019 in order to help to extend the life of the programme and increase the chance of export sales.