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.”


  1. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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!

      • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  3. 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 the type of Chinook being bought it will be working very closely with certain sections of the US Army, who do a lot of aerial refuelling with their Chinooks.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 the way. For the most part it was/is a cynical ploy to avoid explicitly borrowing more money and increasing headline deficit and national debt numbers by implicitly borrowing money under a PFI contract at much higher rates than would have been possible with new gilt issues. Yet again a case of short-term political considerations outweighing cost efficiency.

  6. 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 companies are useful and we should work with them on many things but there are some things you shouldn’t contract out, like the repair of ships should be contracted but even the dockyards are run by Babcock/BAE not the MOD. We need to Nationalise some of these assets and bring them back under military/MOD control and operation, starting with the AirTankers and Pilot Training, its one of the few(if only) things I agree with Corbyn, like why is the Royal Mail privatised?? Im not sure with the likes of the trains I dont really see much of a problem there but electricity and water is ridiculous!

    • 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!

    • 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 don’t agree with pulling these sevices back into the public sector again, as ‘borrow and spend’ Coybyn would, leave them be, but ensure they give the taxpayer value for money moving forward.

      • John

        ‘Still, we are where we are, I don’t agree with pulling these sevices back into the public sector again, as ‘borrow and spend’ Coybyn would, leave them be, but ensure they give the taxpayer value for money moving forward.’

        Firstly the tax payer doesn’t fund the utilities, so there is no value for money to give. Capital projects are usually funded by the customer of the Utility, take Thames Waters super sewer under the Thames, if you pay Thames Water, you’re paying for that! Bargain!

        So the other option of returning them to public ownership has huge issues.
        The problem with buying back elec gas water etc by the government, billions of pounds they don’t have aside, is that they will be run piss poorly like they were before, like everything else run by the government.
        Look at councils, what an utterly useless bureaucratic shower of unhelpful trade unionist unaccountable lazy sods they are. I know of what I speak having had the misfortune of dealing with them for the last 20 odd years. Its still 1960 in council land, please pass the golden pension scheme. Look at all the MOD contractual cock ups we see on here ( the latest one is the refuelling tankers) that people can’t believe happen. The government are a shambles when it comes to ‘doing business’.

        Is privatisation better? In some ways no. We all see fat cat pay and bonus stories.
        In some ways yes. Dividends are paid to fat cats yes, but also to institutions like pension companies that hold huge numbers of shares. So a large portion of dividend money does end up back in ordinary peoples pockets.
        Because the utilities are run as proper businesses and they are very heavily regulated the money spent isn’t pissed away like a council would (or the NHS that spent 10’s of thousands on some statue/artwork. Surely some more nurses would have been better?) Its spent on replacing infrastructure, its spent on new infrastructure to meant demands.

        The elec companies for example have strict targets to meet, capital spend targets , supply interruption targets and customer service targets, fail to meet them and they are financially penalised. Powercuts have been massively reduced in both frequency and duration believe it or not. These are not the people you pay your bill to, but the companies that own the cables, pylons transformers etc that supply the nation ( I’m sure that doesn’t eat into Mr Chairman et al bonuses when they fail however).

        Before 1990 something people had no choice who to buy their energy from, and we were stuck being charged by the local company, now there are dozens of choices. So your bill is too high? Get off you ass and shop around then like you would with anything else.

        Approx 12 % of everyones bill is green taxes to give to Mr Windfarm and Solar Farm to meet the UK’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions .
        5% is VAT. so nearly one fifth is just TAX. This kind of gets brushed over by politicians

        So cost aside, returning the utilities back to government ownership / management is a step backward in a lot of respects.

        Is it a populist arguement put forward by people like Brother Corbyn, yes, sounds goods to voters, but as we’ve seen, the price cap set by government is already being raised in April, by the government, not by energy companies.
        So how will Brother Corbyn reduce our bills?

        He can’t.

        Phew I need a lie down!!

        • Fascinating RGR. Thank you.

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

        • 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 been tempted to retain the govenments stake in the banks as a long term investment and take regular dividend payments for the exchequer.

          In term they could have used that money to slowly rebuild our squandered gold reserves!

          Joking aside, the UK needs properly thought out long term planning, with a clear vision and plan for the next 20 years.

          What we actually have is a two party yin and Yang eternal power struggle, with no long term plan … The blind leading the bloody self interested blind!

      • 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.

        • I dont know,

          I suspect not, would cost billions. Plus I forgot to mention the corporation tax they all pay, the people they employ who then pay tax, the supply chains etc etc.

          I saw an article that strongly suggested SSE alone contributes over £9bn to the economy.

          So whilst we all think that C Montgomery Burns owns these companies, the realities are a bit different.

          Excellent Smithers! Realease the hounds!

          • 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 Something that can be tweaked by governments by putting up costs to increase the surplus returned to the Treasury to fund whatever ill-advised extra spending some future government might want to load onto the national cost base.


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