A400M At­las flies first op­er­a­tional mis­sion


On De­cem­ber 29 the French Air Force car­ried out the first op­er­a­tional mis­sion of an A400M At­las tac­ti­cal trans­port air­craft be­tween Or­léans-Bricy air base in France and Ba­mako air­port, in Mali.

Af­ter tak­ing off at 10:00 EST from its base, the A400M flew for six hours and 40 min­utes car­ry­ing a load of 22 met­ric tonnes of equip­ment in­tended for French forces de­ployed in Cen­tral Africa on Op­er­a­tion Ser­val.

This first mis­sion was thor­oughly pre­pared and planned. “We paid spe­cial at­ten­tion in pre­par­ing this mis­sion, to be able to han­dle all con­tin­gen­cies,” says Lt Colonel Creuset, mis­sion com­man­der. “We were able to train on the full flight sim­u­la­tor which has been op­er­a­tional for a few weeks at the A400M train­ing cen­ter at Or­léans air base.”

Since Au­gust 2 last, when the first At­las trans­port was handed over to the French air force, the crews of the multi­na­tional en­try into ser­vice team (MEST) at Or­léans have car­ried out op­er­a­tional trial and train­ing flights. This first op­er­a­tional mis­sion was car­ried out only five months af­ter the French Air Force ob­tained its A400M, and the Ba­mako flight was flown by air­craft se­rial num­ber MSN8, the se­cond air­craft which was de­liv­ered less than two months ago. This demon­strates the French Air Force’s high de­gree of trust in the air­craft, and in the crews that op­er­ate it.

“If this is a true ‘pre­mière’ for the A400M, it is not so new for the air­men who car­ried it out,” said Lt. Col. Creuset. “MEST per­son­nel have a wide range of ex­pe­ri­ence, and each mem­ber has flown suf­fi­ciently di­verse op­er­a­tions so they can eas­ily ap­pre­hend this kind of mis­sion.”

Two A400Ms are cur­rently op­er­ated by the MEST at Or­léans-Bricy, the air force’s Air Base N° 123. This first op­er­a­tional mis­sion demon­strates the air­craft’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and is a ma­jor step to­wards its full op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity, which it is ex­pected to achieve by the end of 2014.

The A400M At­las is indis­pens­able for the re­newal and mod­ern­iza­tion of the French air force’s fleet of tac­ti­cal trans­port air­craft. Its ser­vice in­tro­duc­tion will al­low the grad­ual re­tire­ment of the C160 Transalls while adding to the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the C130 Her­cules fleet.

A tac­ti­cal trans­port air­craft with strate­gic range, the A400M At­las meets cur­rent mil­i­tary re­quire­ments for cri­sis man­age­ment and mod­ern op­er­a­tions. It also al­lows France to main­tain its stand­ing with its in­ter­na­tional part­ners and with var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions.

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