The Airbus A400M project has met with considerable setbacks recently, with Germany showing itself an unhappy customer so far and changes being made in the project’s top management. So, if there’s any good stuff to report, Airbus Defence and Space wisely takes the opportunity, which in this case is two fighter jets simultaneously air-to-air refueling from the A400M for the first time.
In the course of four flights, the A400M performed 74 contacts and dispensed 27.2 tonnes of fuel to two Spanish Air Force F-18 aircraft. Refuelling was conducted at altitudes of 20,000ft – 33,000ft, and airspeeds of 180kt – 300kt – the preferred refuelling envelope for fighters.
With a basic fuel capacity of 50.8 tonnes which can be increased by the use of extra cargo hold tanks, Airbus names the A400M is the most capable tactical tanker in the market. The standard A400M aircraft has full provisions for air-to-air refuelling (AAR) operations already installed and only requires the rapid installation of the optional air-to-air refuelling kit to become a tanker. Designed to be a dual-role transport and tanker aircraft, the A400M should provide air forces with a cost-effective way to acquire an air-to-air refuelling capability in addition to a versatile logistic and tactical airlifter.
On a typical tanking mission where it would loiter for 2 hours at a range of 500 nm (930 km) from base, the A400M would have a potential “fuel give-away” of 34,000 kg (75,000 lb).
Source: Airbus Defence & Space, with additional reporting by Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: The A400M refuelling two Spanish Hornets in 2015 (Image © Airbus Defence & Space)