The Royal Air Force have taken delivery of their first A400M Atlas. The aircraft will be used by the RAF to start familiarising crew ahead of acceptance.
A total of 22 Atlas aircraft have been ordered by the UK and will be delivered in the coming years with the air force recieving another two before the end of the year. The type will operate from RAF Brize Norton and will operate alongside the massive C-17 and smaller C-130 aircraft for a while before eventually replacing the service’s venerable fleet of C-130 Hercules.
The aircraft handed to the RAF completed its maiden flight in Spain on the 30th of August this year, the first aircraft of the project taking flight in December 2009.
The originally troubled A400M programme was launched in 2003 to respond to the air transport needs of seven European Nations, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Spain, Turkey and the UK with Malaysia joining in 2005.
British test pilot Ed Strongman had this to say about the aircraft back in August:
“It was very satisfying to conduct this first flight of the first A400M for the Royal Air Force. I have no doubt its combination of true tactical capability with strategic range will be an enormous contributor to future air mobility in the RAF.”
The aircraft is capable of carrying a load of up to 30 tonnes over a range of 2000 nautical miles at speeds comparable with jet engined military transports. It will be capable of deploying troops and/or equipment between and within theatres of operation either by parachute (up to 108 paratroopers), or by landing on short, unprepared or semi-prepared strips. It will also offer significant improvements in reliability, maintenance and operating costs over the C-130J Hercules fleet. The A400M can also be configured to conduct long-range cargo and troop transport, medical evacuation, aerial refuelling and electronic surveillance missions.