Airbus Military delivers first A400M to France
After many trials and tribulations, Airbus Military on September 30 delivered its first A400M, said to be most versatile airlifter of the 21st century. The A400M programme was launched in 2003 and the maiden flight took place on December 11, 2009, but the programme was plagued by one problem or the other, leading to cost overruns of about 6.2 billion euros.
The programme has been going through rough weather but then after the September 30 handover ceremony at the Airbus Military plant in Seville, Spain, Airbus Military officials are excited about the airlifter which is to take head on the competition from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. The ceremony was attended among others by HRH Prince of Asturias, French Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian, Spanish Minister of Defence Pedro Morenés, as well as other military authorities from France and other partner nations and OCCAR representatives attended the ceremony along with EADS CEO Tom Enders, and Airbus Military CEO Domingo Ureña-Raso. The French Minister termed the aircraft as a ‘technological feat’.
As of August 2013, Airbus Military had an order book of 174 A400M of which France will be picking up 50, Germany 53, Spain 27 and Britain 22. The French have rescheduled their purchase and the Minister has clarified that France will take only 15 planes in its 201419 supply programme, down from 35 A400M it had planned to take. EADS is worried that any downsizing of the deliveries by France will have a cascading effect on the programme which is backed by seven partners—NATO members Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey, besides Malaysia.
The A400M has had problems with the complex engine and also the demanding requirements of the partner nations which resulted in inordinate delays.
However, the aircraft is a versatile one which can perform three very different types of duties: tactical missions to the point of need and long range strategic/logistic ones, besides serving as an airto-air refuelling “tanker”. Powered by four unique counter-rotating Europrop International (EPI) TP400 turboprop power plants, the A400M offers a wide flight envelope in terms of both speed and altitude. It is the ideal airlifter to fulfil the most varied requirements of any nation around the globe in terms of military, humanitarian and any other “civic” mission for the benefit of society.
The A400M can perform missions which previously required two or more different types of aircraft, and which even then provided an imperfect solution. Its fuselage external width of 5.64 metres (18 ft 6 in) is equal to that of the A330/A340 wide-body. Its cargo hold has an inside usable width of four metres (13 ft), height of up to four metres (13 ft), and usable length of 17.71 metres (58 ft).
Heavy and outsize loads
With a maximum payload of up to 37 tonnes (81,600 lb) and a volume of 340 m3 (12,000 ft3), the A400M can carry numerous pieces of outsize cargo including, vehicles and helicopters that are too large or too heavy for previous generation tactical airlifters, for example, an NH90 or a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, or two heavy armoured vehicles for military purposes. The A400M can also carry 116 personnel, or paratroops. The airlifter has the capability to fly distances up to 4,700 nm (8,700 km), at a cruising altitude up to 37,000 feet, and at a speed of up to Mach 0.72, very similar to that of a turbofan powered airlifter. It can even fly up to 40,000 feet for special operations. Thanks to its unique short landing characteristics, the A400M is the only large airlifter that can fly equipment and personnel directly to the site of action, where these materials are urgently needed.