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.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I always have a wry smile when aircraft / ships / vehicles are criticised by the ‘experts’ before their first flight / launch / run, then they are forecast to be useless by industry ‘experts’ while still on trials and work up and then eventually all seem to deliver what is expected and the ‘experts’ are nowhere to be seen …

      • The problem is the downwash from the engines forcing side parachute jumps to collide after exiting the aircraft. This is very high risk.

        To date no satisfactory has been found.

        Exits via the rear ramp are safe, but this is not considered a viable operational alternative for getting a lot of paratroops out of an aircraft in the shortest possible time.

        So if a solution cannot be found then the A400m is incapable of paratroop assault role.

        The downwash from the engines also causes a problem the inflight refuelling role of helicopters from the A400m

        • Not using the rear ramp interests me Mike.

          You see Pathfinder Platoon using rear ramp doors in FF and I have read of the Air Troops in 22 SAS using it and exiting en masse as quickly as possible to stay together while falling.

          So why is that not enough for 2 and 3 Para when in AATF role?

          • The quickest and safest method of deploying a large number of troops by parachute is by static line dropping from exit doors on the sides of the aircraft. This method will dispatch the paratroopers in half the time of a ramp jump.

            The aim is to get your your heavily laden troops into the smallest possible drop zone so they form themselves into a viable fighting unit in the shortest possible time to carry out their mission and if necessary defend themselves from an enemy attack.

  2. factually incorrect. The A400 from the UK EMPTY.
    More of the RAF A400 sit on the ground than fly due to lack.of spares and servicing abilities.
    Para from A400 isnt working.

  3. Mike – I gave you a link from THIS site that denies your allegation. Had you read that link you will see these key paragraphs:

    “Paratroopers from the French Air Force recently completed a series of parachute jumps from an A400M to validate the aircraft’s paratrooper delivery capability.”

    “During the trial, 30 paratroopers jumped in a row from a lateral door in the clear sky above the Pyrénées. 15 flights in total were performed.”

    I am not quite sure why you are refusing to acknowledge the truth. Yes we know it was an earlier problem but it has, apparently, been solved.

    And without going into too much detail I can recall Paras going out the back of Beverleys with no rear doors on as well as going out the boom tail. 4 sticks all at one go.

    You then quote a story from November 2015 and rewind the German story to say what exactly? Nothing to do with paratroopers. The A400M has been certified for tanking if Air Forces want it. The Germans are doing what they always do with joint projects (Typhoon and Tornado refers) and order large numbers, get the larger workshare and then cancel out. They are looking for any possible wangle to get out of paying for them. Its not the A400M that is the scandal here its the bloody Germans and how the manipulate everything.

    Forgive me but you seem to have a rather irrational dislike for this brilliant aircraft. The RAF is currently the biggest operator and I haven’t heard too many gripes from the RAF or the MoD ….

  4. http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50713:europes-a400m-army-plane-may-see-some-features-axed&catid=113:international-news&Itemid=248

    Europe’s new troop transporter may never go into battle with all the promised military capabilities after buyers of the A400M agreed to let Airbus negotiate an opt-out for features deemed too difficult to build.

    A document signed last week between Airbus and seven NATO nations, and seen by Reuters, allows the planemaker to negotiate deals with the individual buyers so that some of the complex add-on features can be removed from the official specifications.

    The new “declaration of intent” appears to mark the first time the buyers have recognized that not all the features designed to outdo competing U.S. aircraft will be available.

    A 3.5-billion-euro bailout from buyer nations in 2010 rescued the program from cancellation, but problems remained with some of the plane’s classified defensive systems, as well as some types of paratrooper drop and helicopter refueling.

    Dated 12 February 2018

  5. Morning all
    The aircraft in U.K. service currently provide the services requested of it, presently this does not include the dispatch of paratroops, although can be used, if deemed operationally necessary to dispatch SF troopers via the ramp.
    The C-130 is still the preferred method for deploying paratroops utilising the sim stick method that has been practiced for many years.
    Aircraft trials continue with the Atlas, however the aircraft is currently heavily utilised replacing the Hercules on the various milk run routes the RAF currently provide to the armed forces of the U.K. and her NATO allies.
    Problems exist with all aircraft when the get delivered to the customer. The vendor then works with the customer to either overcome the problem or accept penalties.
    Feedback so far has been good, for the first time in a while something has been delivered that does most of what it said it would do. It has allowed the RAF to retire older Hercules aircraft whilst at the same time increase air mobile capability.
    Paradrop capability will continue to be provided by the Hercules, with more available now for the tactical roles it was designed for and not the inter theatre freight moves and pax lifts it was being used for.
    On balance the aircraft and the capabilities it is now providing the RAF far exceed what the RAF has before, if anything we should find the money to purchase the other 3.

  6. Irrespective of aircraft type I always thought sim sticks were a bit dodgy. After my para course (not para reg) I might have done a sim stick once or twice in six years service. PJIs are meant to stagger jumpers out of alternate sides of the aircraft but this is rarely maintained for the full stick. I remember being surprised on one jump when it looked as though I could reach across and shake the hand of the jumper coming out of the other door.

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