The A400M airlifter tests on gravel runways is good news for the aircraft’s overall performance in difficult conditions and especially for its operational use in supporting special operations units:
EADS : Airbus Military A400M successfully performs unpaved runway trials – 4-traders (press release)
Airbus Military has completed an important set of trials of the A400M new generation airlifter, demonstrating the aircraft’s excellent performance on gravel runways. In tests lasting more than a week at Ablitas in northern Spain, development aircraft MSN2 performed 25 landings during six flights on the same runway. The trials confirmed that despite the harsh conditions, damage to the aircraft exterior from stones and dust was minimal and within expectations, and the runway remained usable after repeated operations. Demonstrations included ground manoeuvring, rejected take-offs, and use of propeller reverse thrust at speeds as low as 70kt (130 km/h) – none of which caused engine or cockpit contamination. Tests were successfully performed with and without the optional nosewheel deflector which can be fitted to protect the aircraft during such operations, underlying the A400M’s ability to operate to and from rough strips close to the scene of military or humanitarian action in addition to its strategic capability. Head of A400M Flight Tests, Eric Isorce, said: “We are extremely pleased with the results of these tests which were very close to all predictions and confirm the A400M´s capability to operate successfully from gravel runways.”
Aircraft wings assembled at Airbus in Filton have been shipped to Spain for use on the first Royal Air Force (RAF) A400M military transporter. Following the closure of Filton airfield after it was sold for £120m last year, the wings are being transported to a final assembly line in Seville by road and sea. The wings were loaded onto a ferry at the Royal Portbury Docks, with the RAF expected to receive its order of 22 A400Ms in September next year to replace its existing Hercules aircraft. In March, Airbus announced the creation of 50 temporary jobs at its Filton site, which already employs 4,500, to assist production after an increase in A400M orders. The A400M’s development has been dogged by a string of delays, overspends and political rows that have posed threats to its future. Its maiden flight, originally planned for 2008, took place in December 2009, with orders totalling 174 aircrafts from eight nations up to July 2011.
In-flight refuelling systems are valuable operational assets for the final evaluation of A400M by enhancing the aircraft’s competitiveness in the international exports market:
Responsible for the design and production of the A400 nose section, Aerolia also equips the Airbus military aircraft with in-flight refuelling tanks for the squadrons. In-flight refuelling is vitally important for nations wanting to retain their operational autonomy. Refuelling aircraft offer considerable time saving, discretion and increased safety for the fighters and bombers performing missions over long distances. Aerolia is proud to contribute to this strategy by equipping the A400M with two 7,200-litre tanks; transportable on pallets, this equipment is easy to handle on the ground and can refuel 2 or 3 aircraft in flight simultaneously. Measuring nearly 3 metres long by 2 metres wide, these tanks are assembled directly on Aerolia Saint-Nazaire site and will be delivered directly to the customer at Bremen, Seville or Toulouse. After a first tank produced end 2012 in Saint-Nazaire and intended for the structural tests, Aerolia delivers a batch of 2 tanks for the in-flight tests of the aircraft, thereby opening the way for the manufacture of 26 batches ordered, i.e. a total of 52 aircraft tanks. In line with the company’s development strategy, the manufacture of these tanks positions Aerolia as aeronautical equipment manufacturer and enables it to continue its development.
Finally, the A400M seems well-equipped for supporting special operations.