RAF A400M Atlas, the RAF’s newest transport aircraft has achieved a new milestone, gaining full aeromedical evacuation capability for high dependency and highly infectious patients.
According to the RAF, the delivery of this airborne medical capability represents another important step forward for the Atlas programme, which is delivering vital air transport solutions for the RAF.
The A400M can carry up to 66 low to medium dependency stretcher patients or 4 high dependency stretcher patients. The Critical Care Air Support Team (CCAST) based at RAF Brize Norton provides care equivalent to that found in an NHS Intensive Care Unit including intubation and ventilation.
“One of the benefits of the Atlas is that it can operate at sea level cabin altitude for critical injuries such as lung punctures and head trauma which is a limitation of our other aircraft.” – Air Commodore Claire Walton, Air Officer Medical Operations
The Atlas also supports the Air Transportable Isolator (ATI) which is a secure high-tech plastic bubble that allows patients with high consequence infectious diseases to be transported safely without infecting others. Once landed, the ATI patient is transported to the hospital (usually the Royal Free Hospital in London) by ambulance.
“The RAF maintains the ATI on behalf of the British Government. We have more experience than any other military in the world in using this system to move patients with infectious diseases and have used it to safely transport patients with Ebola from Sierra Leone back to the UK.” – Wing Commander Linfield
The full aeromedical evacuation capability of the A400M including CCAST and ATI represents a major landmark for the programme and the development of a world-class air transport capability for the RAF.
Despite this, Airbus has recently said that 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.
“An increase to the Loss Making Contract provision on the programme, which may be material, is under assessment for the Full Year 2017 results which will be disclosed on 15 February 2018,” Airbus said in a statement.
“Since its inception in 2003, this programme has suffered not only from a number of operational issues but, more importantly, under a flawed contractual set-up and insufficient budget which resulted in significant losses for Airbus,” Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders said in the statement.
“We have a good chance to stop or at least reduce the bleeding now and deliver the capabilities our customers need,” he added.