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.