Airbus Defence and Space has delivered to the German Air Force its first A400M transport aircraft qualified for tactical operations and able to fly in areas subject to military threats. France received its first A400M with tactical capability in June and expects to have six by the end of the year.
The aircraft handed over on 12th December is the sixth A400M in German service and the first with the new capabilities. All aircraft will be retrofitted to the new standard and receive subsequent enhancements as they are certified.
Key aspects of the aircraft’s latest capabilities are improvements in self-defence systems, ability to air-drop cargo loads, and paratrooping. Additionally, the aircraft can operate on unprepared runways, fly as low as 150ft above the ground, refuel other aircraft as a tanker, and safely take-off and land in extremely high temperatures.
The new aircraft is fitted with a Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS) incorporating a Missile Warning System, Radar Warning Receiver, and an Expendables Dispensing System to eject flares and radar-confusing chaff. The DASS for all A400Ms is integrated by Airbus Defence and Space at Ulm.
Military and humanitarian loads of up to 8t each are fully certified for air-dropping from the aircraft’s ramp and further loads are being qualified in flight test.
Paratroops can be dropped from the ramp or side paratroop doors in sticks of up to 20, and sticks of 30 have already been successfully demonstrated with certification to follow. Flight testing continues to build the numbers to 40 and eventually 58 in a single pass.
The aircraft is certified to receive fuel in-flight from a tanker, and as a tactical tanker itself to refuel fighters and other large aircraft by day, with night operations demonstrated and close to certification.
In this latest configuration the A400M is certified to operate in temperatures up to 55°C at sea level, ensuring excellent “hot and high” performance at operationally challenging airfields around the world.