After a challenging introduction to service and a series of upgrades, the A400M Atlas is ready to operate in tactical roles.
Speaking at the Avalon 2017 Air Show in Australia, Wing Commander Simon Boyle said:
“Entry intoservice of any new aircraft type is a challenge and for the A400M it was especially so.
I see a positive trajectory for the aircraft. We have momentum building, we are just now starting to understand how good this aircraft can be.”
The Royal Air Force is the third customer to operate the aircraft, after France and Turkey and will see a total of 22 aircraft delivered with 14 already being available to the RAF.
The A400M ‘Atlas’ has a cargo capacity of 32 tonnes and IS capable of carrying passengers, heavy vehicles, helicopters or cargo pallets.
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 Avalon 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.
Between 2009 and 2010, the aircraft faced cancellation as a result of development program delays and cost overruns; however, the customer nations chose to maintain their support of the project.
A total of 174 A400M aircraft have been ordered by eight nations as of July 2011. In March 2013, the aircraft received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification. The first aircraft was delivered to the French Air Force in August 2013.
The Atlas on display at Avalon is visiting Australasia on a trip to demonstrate its capabilities and therefore promote potential exports there. The aircrafts visit to the region was set to coincide with the Ohakea Air Tatoo in New Zealand and the Avalon Airshow in Australia.
The route is set to go via Hickam in Hawaii, Wellington New Zealand, Ohakea New Zealand, Auckland New Zealand, Avalon Australia, Jakarta Indonesia and Subang Malaysia. This tour will present an ideal opportunity to promote the A400M aircraft to key potential customers whilst providing valuable training and performance development of the aircraft.