The new Airbus A400M flew its first operational mission on Sunday 29 December 2013, when the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) F-RBAB flew to Bamako-Senou airport in Mali.
After taking off from its home BA123 Orleans-Bricy at 10:30, the A400M made a flight of 6 hour and 40 minutes (click for flightdeck image), carrying 22 tons of materiel for the French operation Serval (Mali and Chad). “We have carefully planned the flight, in order to overcome all eventualities”, said Lt. Col. Creuset, head of the mission to an AdlA reporter. “In particular, we have trained on the Full Flight Simulator, commissioned a few weeks ago at the A400M Training Centre at Orleans-Bricy.”
Since 2 August 2013, the delivery date of the first Atlas to the l’Armée de l’Air, the crew of the Multinational Entry into Service Team (MEST) at Orleans-Bricy airbase have made test and training flights. Currently, two A400M Atlas’s are attached to the MEST. They officially have initial operational capability (IOC) only, a military term for the active ‘try-out’ till full operational capability (FOC) is declared. For the AdlA’s first pair of Atlas’s FOC is expected in late 2014.
The A400M Atlas is meant to replace the current larger tactical freighters of the Armée de l’Air, comprising of the C.160 Transall and the C-130 Hercules. The large cargo haul of the A400M can accommodate the max load of 22 tons as seen here on the first operational mission, against only 6 tonnes for a Transall. Other cargo loads for the Atlas could be 2 Tigre attack helicopters, or 3 armoured vehicles (VAB), or 116 paratroopers, or 66 beds for a medevac mission.
Source: Armée de l’Air with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Dennis Spronk