Airbus delivered a significant number of A400M military transport aircraft to costumers in December, bringing to an end a year marked by the fatal crash of an A400M in Seville on 9 May. The program seems to have overcome the tragedy however.
In December, Germany received both its second and third A400M, while France took delivery of its eight aircraft. Also, Turkey and Malaysia got their hands on their third and second aircraft respectively. The latter was handed over to the Royal Malaysian Air Force in Seville on Wednesday 23 December and will head East soon.
The year 2015 saw four deliveries to the Royal Air Force (RAF), who declared the A400M Atlas C1 ‘ready for worldwide tasks’ last September. Meanwhile, Airbus reports it is making progress in assembling the first aircraft for Spain.
Germany becomes more and more worried about its airlift capacity. With the transfer from the aging Transall C.160 to the new Airbus A400M going far from good, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen now aims – more angry than before – her sights at the European aircraft manufacturer.
“Airbus has a serious problem with its understanding of product quality,” Mrs. Van der Leyen told prominent German weekly magazine Der Spiegel this weekend. “That Airbus announced there might be even more delivery delays hits us at a most inconvenient time.”
Germany has ordered 53 Airbus A400M, to be the core of its military airlift capacity. Only one has been delivered so far and German Air Force officials are said not to be happy with the quality of the product, which seems less than advertised or at least not meeting expectations. Key are problems in Airbus’s production of the plane, which does not seem to guarantee that the A400Ms live up to the specs. A similar problem has occurred with the Eurofighter EF2000, the meant-to-be core of the German Air Force combat fleet, in which Airbus is the major share holder (46%). Germany is even considering selling 13 A400Ms to level off the force to 40 due to financial constrains.
Like Germany Spain is considering reselling its ordered A400Ms. With none delivered so far plans call to only hold 14 of the 27 tactical airlifters on strength, but the first might come as late as 2017. Belgium (7) and Luxembourg (1) might not get their A400Ms before the end of this decade.
France sent two Eurocopter (Airbus Helicopters) EC 665 Tigre attack helicopters to the Central African Republic (CAR), in support of Operation Sangaris.
They join two Aérospatiale SA340 Gazelle scout and four SA330 Puma medium-lift helicopters already supporting 2,000 French ground forces that are in the CAR together with 6,700 troops of the international force MINUSCA.
The Tigres of the Aviation légère de l’armée de terre made their first operational flight on 26 November 2014. France predicts that the current politicization of the various armed groups might lead to new tensions in the area, which is the main reason to send the extra air-to-ground combat assets.
November saw also the first operational flight of the new Airbus A400M Atlas when it flew a supply mission to Bangui, marking the first landing of the type at this M’Poko International Airport on 7 November 2014. The tactical airlifter of the French Air Force’s Transport Squadron 1/61 Touraine made a 9:45 hour flight from French Air Force base (Base Aérienne (BA)) 123 d’Orléans to M’Poko airport to unload 7.4 tons of equipment for the Sangaris force. The crew of fourteen (pilots, mechanics and loadmasters) made a stop-over in N’Djamena before returning to Bangui.
Operation Sangaris started in December 2013 with the deployment of French troops to the international airport of Bangui, after the established government and capital came under direct threat of armed groups.
The very first Airbus A400M for the Royal Air Force reported for duty on Monday 17 November. The new tactical airlifter, christened Atlas C.1 in British service, flew from its birthplace in Seville, Spain, to Brize Norton airbase near Oxford in the UK, where it arrived – a pic is here – shortly after 14.00 hours local time. Following the flightpaths of France and Turkey, the UK is now the third operator of the A400M.
The aircraft is the first of 22 Atlas transporters for the RAF. They replace 24 Lockheed C-130J Hercules aircraft currently in operation at Brize Norton. From 2022 onwards, the UK airlift capality will consist of eight Boeing C-17A Globemasters , nine – plus five in reserve – Airbus MRTT refuelling and tranpsort aircraft, plus of course 22 A400M Atlas aircraft.
The first German Air Force Airbus A400M performed its first flight on 14 October 2014. The aircraft took off from the Airbus Military facility in Seville, Spain, for a test flight over the Mediterranean Sea. It was spotted on Flightradar24.com with the temporary registration EC 408, followed by confirmation from an Airbus spokesperson that indeed the planned first flight of the A400M was taking place on Tuesday afternoon.
After take-off the MSN18 – as it is known with Airbus – took off for a pattern all the way to the northern edge of the Spanish region of Andalusia, turning south near the village of Santa Eufemia. Then it headed south to Mabella on the coast to pick up speed up to more than 460 knots on an eastbound track over the Alboran Sea – as the Mediterranean water between Morocco and Europe is called. It made a 180 degree turn west around 16:00, roughly somewhere in the middle of the cities of Melilla in Africa and Almeria in Spain and continued flying up to 31,000 feet of altitude.
The 54+01 (as it will be registered within the German Air Force) turned eastwards for a second track, avoiding two EasyJet and one Thomas Cook airliners on their way from Europe to Africa.
During the third eastbound track the Airbus crew took the Airbus to 35,000 feet while maintaining speeds of 410 to 435 knots. The western leg that followed was more zigzag and turned into shorter north-south bound tracks while gaining speed up to almost 500 knots. Afterwards, the Luftwaffe A400M made a sharp turn near the village of La Cala de Mijas close to Fuengirola in southern Spain and headed back to open water. After some zigzagging it finally headed back to Seville and landed safely 4 hours and 58 minutes after take-off.
Reporting for duty
Germany’s premier A400M performed its taxi trials as late as Monday 13 October, after receiving its official paint scheme on 10 October. Lufttransportgeschwader 62 (Air Transport Wing 62 or LTG62) at Wunstorf Airbase in Germany is expecting the first Airbus A400M reporting for duty before the end of the year. MSN18/54+01 is the first of 53 ordered by the German Air Force and will be known in-service as the A400M Atlas.