In a table detailing current and future Ministry of Defence expenditure, an entry is listed mentioning that the UK plans to purchase additional A400M Atlas transport aircraft later this decade.
An entry in the table under the heading ‘A400m Additional Purchase‘ reads “Additional purchase of A400M planned for the late 2020s”. The increased fleet capacity was also hinted at in the Defence Command Paper, more on that below.
There is no number given however the UK has already ordered 22 A400M aircraft with 20 having been delivered so far. The remaining two are expected this year.
It’s worth remembering that the Royal Air Force will lose its entire fleet of C-130 Hercules aircraft by 2023. The Defence Command Paper released last year, titled ‘Defence in a Competitive Age‘, states:
“The Royal Air Force will retire the BAe146 as planned by 2022 and take the C130 Hercules out of service by 2023. The A400M Atlas force will increase its capacity and capability, operating alongside C 17 Globemaster and Voyager transport aircraft and tankers.”
The C-130J variants first entered service with the Royal Air Force in the late 1990s and some of the C-130s have been retired in recent years but the remaining 14 had originally been due to keep flying until the mid-2030s. It is understood that, where possible, their missions will be picked up by the fleet of larger A400M Atlas transport aircraft.
What does Atlas do?
According to the Royal Air Force website, Atlas has the ability to carry a 37-tonne payload over 2,000nm to established and remote civilian and military airfields, and short unprepared or semi-prepared strips. Capable of operating at altitudes up to 40,000ft, Atlas also offers impressive low-level capability.
“It will accommodate as many as 116 fully-equipped troops; vehicles; helicopters, including a Chinook; mixed loads, including nine aircraft pallets and 54 passengers, or combinations of vehicles, pallets and personnel, up to a payload of 37 tonnes.”