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.

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