Airbus has successfully completed the certification flight tests for the A400M Cargo Hold Tanks (CHT) refueling unit.

The firm say that is part of an effort taking a new step towards the full certification of the aircraft for air-to-air refueling operations as a tanker.

The campaign, performed together with the Spanish Air Force Test Centre (CLAEX), featured a total of nine flights where 90 tonnes of fuel were dispensed to Spanish Air Force F-18 receivers and to another A400M prototype as a representative heavy aircraft receiver.

The test campaign included the development and certification of the Cargo Hold Tanks with the latest Fuel Quantity Management System software, to be certified during 2019, enhancement of the night refueling vision system and preliminary testing of helicopter air-to-air refueling capabilities.

In other A400M Atlas news, 206 Squadron, supported by 70 Squadron engineers, have been practicing beach landing with an A400M Atlas aircraft in Southern Wales, say the Royal Air Force.

According to a release, beaches are routinely used by the RAF for training operations with other tactical airlifters.

“The A400M showcased its superb tactical capabilities on natural surfaces by performing take-off, landing and taxiing manoeuvres.”

Flight Lieutenant Cheng, a 206 Squadron Pilot, said:

“The advanced flight deck of the A400M and cutting-edge fly by wire controls made this task easier to fly than other platforms. We are now looking forward to the challenge of conducting this operation using night vision goggles later in the trial.”

Wing Commander Neil Philp, Officer Commanding 206 Squadron, said:

“My specialist team has worked hard to deliver this trial and it has showcased the tremendous tactical potential of the A400M. Once this capability is handed over to the front line it has the potential to have a great impact on operations.”

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Cam Hunter

Would be good for long distance special ops with a team of a400s and c130s, and for areas of the world with bad landing strips where the voyager cant land then maybe the a400 can And then support operations better.

Lee Fear

It would certainly add some flexibility. We should purchase some of these refuelling systems to add to our strategic ability.


Lee wrote:
“It would certainly add some flexibility. We should purchase some of these refuelling systems to add to our strategic ability.”

Lee, I was under the impression, that due to the contract signed regards the RAF tanker PFI signed by our honourable gentlemen and women in Parliament, we are unable to look elsewhere for refuelling our jets as they have the sole rights.

Daniele Mandelli

Except under the Air Tanker contract we are not allowed?

Or can we if it is internal, that is the RAF itself rather than another outside party?


Unfortunately the crazy PFI contract we have with Airtanker prevents us from using our A400M to carry out AAR. If we had been smart we would have purchased 9 voyagers and used the entire A400M fleet as a reserve AAR instead of the 5 aircraft reserve airtanker provides. Let’s hope they get the helicopter refilling at the MOD installs on the Merlin HC4 so we can have a proper CSAR capability.


If that is correct then someone needs firing immediately and possibly put in stocks! That would be a crazy contract mistake for an armed force! We would be effectively saying that we can not increase our military capability because of a civilian contract!

John Clark

Lee, Labour loved PFI contracts, they spend with a abandon on Social projects and PFI’ed everything else they possibly could, from Hospitals to Tankers for the RAF.

Most of these contracts were bad news and in long term have proven to be poor value for money.

Air Tanker have a watertight contract regarding MOD AAR capability, if we want to add any organic capability, it will need to be negotiated and money paid no doubt.

Robert Blay

We have more then enough capacity with the voyager fleet, and it’s simply wasting more money that would be better spent on other thing’s.


We have plenty of capacity for normal operations. However we would possibly struggle if we were in a large conflict. Plus the A400M could operate from places the voyager could not.

Mr Bell

Yes but a quick question. Can the very expensive gold platted voyagers refuel all our fleet? I think not. Will they be able to refuel Eurofighter, F35B, Poseidon etc?
I thought they could not do Poseidon and thus A400M might be needed in AAR role.


A400M can’t refuel P8 or C17 or Voyager or RC135. Voyager can but we need to fit it with the refueling boom system. Also future E7 will ned this. Once E3 leaves service virtually all large RAF aircraft will use the boom system.


You would think we do but then remembering the USA which does retain forces scaled for war has 400 refueling aircraft. So our 14 seems very small in comparison.

I agree on not wasting money but its worth remembering that everyone of our 22 A400M is already plumed to be a refueling tanker as standard. All we need to do is fit the kits. Its a small cost for a potentially giant capability increase.

Paul T

Was this the reason the RAF buy was reduced from 25 to 22 A400’s,obviously more can be bought in the future should the need arise.

Paul Irving

The AirTanker consortium would probably be happy for us to use our A400Ms as tankers, on the right terms. Think about who’s in AirTanker. Airbus, Babcock, Cobham, Rolls-Royce, Thales . . .

It would require a contract modification, but that should be possible. With AirTanker members supplying the equipment, training crews, & providing support, why would they object?


There is nothing to stop us fitting the A400M’s for AAR role in the airtanker PFI contract. However every time we take fuel form another aircraft (even potentially allied aircraft) we are required to make payment to Airtanker.

If the RAf was planning to increase the A400M buy then the consortium would allow the UK to exit on favorable terms as Airbus and RR are desperate to increase sales of A400M. Cobham make the kit for the A400M so would also be very happy.


I would rather the A400 was used for its intended role rather than be required to provide AAR cover. I’m more annoyed we did not fit the book to the Airbus when we ordered them as it will likely cost far more to retro fit them once we receive the boeing Poseidon and Wedge Tail


Absolutely it is best to use the A400M for its primary purpose, however it can not harm to increase its capabilities and our strategic options. These systems will simply be fitted when needed not part of everyday operations. I also agree that it was monumentally stupid to not order the voyagers with booms! I can’t even imagine the thought process that came to that decision. I think we are the only operator of the voyager that does not have them fitted with booms.


The other issue is that the Voyagers cannot be used for refuelling helicopters. This was one of the reasons of keeping the Herc’s as they could be flown slow enough to refuelling the RAF Chinook Mk3/5s, without causing massive wake turbulence. However, as part of the money saving drive, this requirement was shelved, though we kept the Herc’s – thankfully. The new buy Chinooks will re-introduce the aerial refuelling requirement. So either the Herc or A400M will have to do this role, as Air Tanker cannot provide the service, unless this is in some contract small print somewhere. Due to… Read more »


Boom not Book.
Damn why can we not edit comments on this site.

Harry Bulpit

Can we not just give the money to airtanker to buy them for us, and say thank you very much. And if they want to charge an extra fee we just tell them that we will simply council the contract and take their aircraft.


dont be ridiculous that’d be too sensible!

Harry Bulpit

Thought so.

Daniele Mandelli

Voyagers are for Fast Jets.

UKSF need the capability to refuel Chinook, and the slower A400 or Hercules fit the bill.

Daniele Mandelli

Sorry just seen Davey B comment above talking of same.

Mark Forsyth

As always, the MOD falls down on poor contracting. Whilst I understand that Airtanker would want to ensure they make money of the contract, it wouldn’t have been difficult to insert a force majeure clause, allows the SofS to utilise other assets in the event of war etc.


I wouldn’t be too sure that such a clause isn’t in there. Some while ago I posted some exact wording, I think from a detailed reply to a FOI request. That wording did include mention of an explicit provision for the per-litre fee to be waived in certain circumstances e.g. joint exercises where some country other than the U.K. was providing AAR resources for the exercise is the one that I remember. I would have thought that if exclusions were written into the contract for joint exercises then there would also be time-of-war exclusions. I’m no fan of PFI by… Read more »


One would assume in a national emergency, we’d say bugger to the contract?

Agree though that it’s needed and sadly a result of poor contracting.


Completely agree with the PFI contract. I personally dont believe we should be having commercial companies providing major strategic assets, they need to be MOD/RAF and thats for this bullshit air training programme(UKMFTS) where the RAF/FAA/AAC won’t even be training its own pilots anymore, not fully anyway and doesn’t even own the trainers. Some Privatisation is ok but I just dont see the logic when it comes to defence, if its military it should be military not Capita, Serco, Lockheed(a foreign company as well, although a close one). How much money can possibly be saved through this. Of course commercial… Read more »


I sometimes wonder if the only government run public service will be the NHS one day and the government will be nothing more than a health provider!

John Clark

Keith, I have to agree Royal Mail, a strategic service that was making money …. A mistake to sell it. But parties from both sides of the political devide sold off the family silver and in the case of Labour, quite literally the family gold! Should water, power and gas generating companies be State owned, absolutely they should … Selling stratigic national sevices is a very bad idea. State owned, but properly run, in a business like way. I don’t think there’s anything left to sell to be honest…. Nothing comes to mind. Still, we are where we are, I… Read more »


Yes its a very sticky issue, now that they’ve have been sold can they be bought back reasonably?? Good question, I dont know but I feel Britain has gone to far and its too late.


Not to mention that if Corbyn managed to nationalise utilities the bills potentially become a covert way of effectively levying extra tax on people. I believe the proposal is to fund the re-nationalisations (share purchases) by extra government borrowing with the operating profits of the nationalised utilities set such that they are sufficient to at least service the interest payments on that debt with any surplus potentially used to pay down debt (unlikely in my opinion) or more likely credited to a Treasury receipts. That surplus level, which is obviously heavily influenced by the energy costs charged to consumers, becomes… Read more »

Robert Blay

Very well explained ?

Daniele Mandelli

Fascinating RGR. Thank you.

I’m all for assets such as these in public hands but did not realise the issues, and the drawbacks.

John Clark

Good points RGH, When I say ‘ give the public good value for money’ I mean just that, tight regulation of private suppliers, ensuring the public are protected from excessive profit seeking companies. I don’t believe in returning companies back to private ownership, it’s populist socialist politics and generally comes with its own can of worms! Like many on both sides of the political fence, I didn’t see the logic in selling Royal Mail, it was profitable, so why sell it? It’s simple short term profit politics and flawed strategic long term thinking. On the same note, I would have… Read more »

Fen Tiger

Yer what?