A Royal Air Force A400M Atlas has delivered 23 tonnes by parachute over Salisbury Plain.

The drops, which the MoD say represent the heaviest overall load ever air-dropped by a UK aircraft, took place as part of trial to confirm the aircrafts ability to deliver heavy loads, such as military equipment, supplies and humanitarian aid, without needing to land.

It should be noted that he maximum cargo weight deliverable via the Container Delivery System from a C-130J Hercules is approximately 15 tonnes, according to the MoD.

Wing Commander Ed Horne, Officer Commanding LXX Squadron, said:

“Atlas has already proven itself on active service especially in the humanitarian relief role in the Caribbean last year and Indonesia earlier this year.

These trials confirm the RAF as having one of the most capable transport fleets in the entire world and are a significant step forward in qualifying Atlas for even more operations.”

The trials were reportedly overseen by the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) in partnership with the RAF, the Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit and Air Warfare Centre, QinetiQ and Airbus.

The MoD state in a release that results from the trial will now be fed back into the Atlas development programme which is qualifying the aircraft to perform such operations in active RAF service.

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Steve Taylor

I wonder, was this designed to answer those who say A400m isn’t a good plane for parachutists?


Steve, dropping stores from the tailgate is totally different from dropping pax through the side para doors. The aircraft does have issues with utilising the para doors, but the issues aren’t insurmountable. However JATE are still looking at this, but at the moment para dropping from the Atlas is not an immediate concern, as we still use the C130J, and gone are the days of a full Brigade drop with 8 or 9 C130s for pax and another 8 for heavy drop. It’s all about “air landing” now, ( a capabilty we have always used) with maybe just the lead… Read more »


Have we dropped Para’s out of one yet? I read somewhere the reason the French had no accepted theirs into service was because they could not do it, which suggests with the RAF going ahead they will either need to be modified later or deemed it less necessary.

Sceptical Richard

A400M has been cleared to drop up to 58 paras from one door and another 58 from the other. What has not been cleared yet is doing this simultaneously from both doors due to the risk of collision occurring between paratroopers behind the aircraft. This risk exists with all aircraft, C-130J and C-17 included. The problem is that the risk is considered higher with the A400M. This is due to the highly symmetrical airflow that exists behind the plane. The work that is currently ongoing in Airbus is to create enough turbulent air behind the aircraft while dropping, to minimise… Read more »

Cam Hunter

How come we are ordering less off these planes, 22 is our order, and France has ordered 50, Germany 53, Spain has even ordered more than Britain with 27… Its anoying watching countrys order more than Britain when we have the biggest defence budget and we could do with more Atlas planes because of our C130 fleet being halved…


What they order, to get industrial share, is not the same as what they plan to operate. Last I heard, Spain was only going to keep 14 out of 27. The others were to be sold or stored. South Korea may buy 4 to 6 of the Spanish A400M. Germany was saying it will operate 40 out of its 53. The others may be sold or operated as a multinational sqn. Mind you, if the RAF could pick up an extra pair of ex German/Spanish A400M, at a discount, a total of 24 (2x 12 aircraft sqns), would be better… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli


They dont have C17s too, remember, in looking at total capabilities. Or the Voyagers.

With the Hercs retained for UKSF use too this is one area we are in a good place in.

Agree would be nice for a few more but if rather spend the dosh elsewhere.


Mate this is an area where the RAF have the strength within Europe. We have the the C17s, Voyagers, C130s etc and don’t forget the 146s etc in the “Royal Sqn””(useful airframe for pax moves). The C130s were cut for a number of reasons, but the main one is age and hours used. Some of the older airframe had serious fatigue issues. One issue was with, believe me when I say this, rust and wear along underneath the floor of the aircraft from having 40 years plus of pax and paras having a sneaky piss, when kneeling, kitted up in… Read more »

Sceptical Richard

All down to industrial workshare. Original order was 25 later reduced to 23. Enough to guarantee U.K. 12% of programme, IOW enough to guarantee wing design and manufacture, including hydraulic, pneumatic and fuel systems, as well as elements of the landing gear. Operationally can be justified on the grounds that U.K. also has C-130J and C-17 which other countries don’t. Between you and me U.K. should have ordered more anyway. I personally believe they will in the fullness of time, when the rest of the ‘Js’ are retired

Sceptical Richard

I meant to say 22


We are ordering less as the capability is being provided by other assets i.e. voyager, c17, c130j etc. However, I would hope that we will purchase more once c130j has outlived its useful life, especially as we are not only the biggest out of those countries but also the most deployed/active. I would hope for another 22 but maybe that is optimistic. I guess it depends on how serious the government take using and supporting the strike brigades as well as 16th air assault as well as deploying the large number iso containers for all the flexible mission bays the… Read more »

Peter Crisp

How accurate are they able to be with pallets airdropped to a location?

If they tried to help a town with an area of a few football pitches or a local park would that be enough?


Accurate enough, there is always a minimum criteria for a drop zone, but as these are palletized loads the main criteria is length of run. The Atlas has an excellent new roller system to load/unload and drop stores. They can be dropped in less than 15 seconds, as the A/C runs in at about 140-160 knots. Height can be varied as it’s only palletized loads, but the rule of thumb is lower the drop, less the spread. If this was pax the normal training drop height is 800 feet, at about 120knots, (C130J) with the LLP. On operations with the… Read more »

Sceptical Richard

A400M equipped with CARP (computer aided release point). When fully qualified, will drop a load with same degree of accuracy as Tornado would drop a dumb bomb. Rest depends on meteo and height of drop. If you want any more accuracy, tests are being conducted with GPS assisted paradrops