The world’s only full air force squadron flying the new Airbus A400M tactical airlifter – for the time being – just concluded its first week of existence. On 17 September 2014 1/61 “Touraine” was officially reactivated on the French Air Base 123 Orléans Bricy by the French Airchief, General Denis Mercier. The squadron immediately became part of the pool of resources of the European Air Transport Command, headquartered at Eindhoven Airbase in the Netherlands.
Armée de l’Air squadron 1/61 flew the C-160 Transall before, but was disbanded after retiring its last aircraft. The reactivation as a A400M unit was pre-planned for September 2014, a deadline made with five aircraft of the type already in French Air Force ant the Touraine’s service. Thereby France not only has the first full A400M unit, it is currently the biggest operator, the first that flew the A400M across the Atlantic Ocean and the country that gave the promising – but somewhat troubled – Airbus military airlifter its combat debut in Central Africa and later in Northern Iraq. Although that were low-key missions without much of a danger.
The first A400M – still as a testing aircraft – landed at Orleans Air Base on 24 April 2012, where it was operated first by the testing unit MEST. The sixth A400M for the French Air Force will also directly put under EATC operational control, and by that France will meet what it has promised to put into the European military airlift pool.
© 2014 Airheadfly.com editor Marcel Burger, with source information from the EATC