An RAF A400M Atlas transport aircraft has successfully completed a series of spectacular test landings on a beach in South Wales.

The trial at Pembrey Air Weapons Range was organised by the DE&S A400M Project Team, based at MOD Abbey Wood in Bristol, in conjunction with Airbus and the Royal Air Force.

The aircraft is a multi-national military transport aircraft. It was designed by Airbus Military (now Airbus Defence and Space) as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities to replace older transport aircraft, such as the Transall C-160 and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

The latest upgrades to the aircraft on display at the Avalon air event in Australia include cockpit armour, IR counter measures and a host of avionics upgrades. These upgrades will allow the aircraft to perform in a tactical role.

Wing Commander Simon Boyle added:

“Indication is that the aircraft will perform very well in the tactical role and on unprepared runways. We’re starting to understand how good the aircraft could be in the tactical environment.”

Last year, videos and images ermeged showing the A400M conducting trials from an austere landing strip at Woodbridge Airfield.

Woodbridge Airfield was identified by Airbus Defence and Space as the site to test the new multinational, four-engined transport aircraft.

According to the MoD, preparation for the trials involved a great deal of construction work by 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment, based at the neighbouring Rock Barracks, to create a natural surface on Woodbridge Airfield for the A400M.

The A400M is positioned, in terms of size, between the C-130 and the C-17; it can carry heavier loads than the C-130, while able to use rough landing strips. Along with the transport role, the A400M can perform aerial refuelling and medical evacuation when fitted with appropriate equipment.

The A400M’s maiden flight, originally planned for 2008, took place on 11 December 2009 from Seville, Spain.

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This aircraft keeps racking up the plus points. Apparently the Aussies were very impressed with it on its recent promotional trip ‘Down Under’ but I am not sure if they are in the market for a heavy lifter yet.

Harry Bulpit

Nice aircraft, shame we cant use it for aerial refuelling.


It is capable of aerial fuel delivery and receipt.

Mike Saul

Was there really need for this aircraft given the availability of the c130 and c17?

I think not, given the hit to airbus profits, lack of sales outside of the EU and on going problems.

Mark L

The company I work for help build the wings for these – I’m chuffed to see it coming along so well!


It’s a real shame the AJAX were not designed to fit into these. If you need to do a combat landing, bring some armor with you would make a big difference to the ability to secure the landing zone fast, along with some anti-air, which i assume the new CAMML will not fit in either.

Mike Saul

You design the armoured fighting vehicles that the army needs to be combat effective on the battlefield, rather than design them to fit into one type of aircraft.

One of the reasons for UK scrapped our involvement in the Boxer programme was they didn’t fit into a c130.

Our troops would have benefited greatly with boxer vehicles in helmand


Whilst you are of course right, i think there is a need for a armoured vehicle that can fit into these, that has a half decent gun. In a combat situation, where a combat landing is needed, how do you get the ajax into combat if you can’t air lift them.

Mike Saul

Most armoured fighting vehicles that have adequate protection against IEDs and RPG attacks will have to be transported by ship.

Air assault operations will require light vehicles, but are highly vulnerable in other operations such as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I do not wish to see the lives of out troops sacrificed because they are issued with equipment that is not up to the job.


There needs to be a balance. Sending troops with wrong equipment equally applies to air lifted troop. We have one of the biggest heavy lift fleet in NATO outside the US, which means someone thinks it could be needed, and is balancing the books around mobility warfare. If needed, we need equipment that can be used with it. Light vehicles only work in low intensity conflicts. In my opinion we should consider something with a little more punch than the foxhound for such a role. Maybe something along the wheeled platforms that some of the NATO members have developed.

Mike Saul

I understand your opinion, the best way forward in my opinion is you design/procure the equipment that does the actual fighting then design/ procure the logistic/transport equipment to move it. Not the other way around.

So in this case we should have procured more C17s rather than the A400M to move our heavy AFVs.

Mike Saul

So far Airbus has taken a £6bn hit on A400M project and governments a further £3.5bn hit.

Jefferies analyst Sandy Morris called the A400M an “unsatisfactory programme with an equally unsatisfactory contract… that must be frustrating for all and the failure to resolve it does not reflect well on anyone”.

“Airbus is shackled,” he said. “Little wonder management has been mandated by the board to cap the remaining exposure. If Europe now wishes to prove its commitment to NATO, a resolution of A400M might be a good place to start.”

Daily Telegraph Feb 2017