PA260098By Sangeeta Saxena

Seville. 02 November, 2015. Operational in five Air Forces and proposals presented to 9 customers, serious negotiations underway to market and eventually sell A400M, by team Airbus Defence& Space. Remembering the crash in May has only motivated them to tell the world that their spirits were deterred but not their trust in the Grizzly. Export sales of more than 300 over next 30 years, targeting 50 over the next 5 years, Airbus is hopeful of getting A400Ms at the top of the chart.

At this year’s Airbus Defence and Space Trade Media Briefing held in Spain in late October 2015, the head of the A400M Program within the company, Kurt Rossner quipped, ” the sun is coming out of the clouds and our faith in A 400M being the game changer in the transport aircraft arena, stands strong as ever.”

PA2600951174 aircraft contracted by 7 European Launch Nations and 1 export customer, Airbus has a target of 13-17 aircraft deliveries for this year and has entered German, Royal and Malaysian air forces, since TMB 2014. MSN 29, 30 and 31 will be delivered in November. MSN 32, 33, 34 and 35 are scheduled for December deliveries but are subject to flight test results. A look at the A400M Ramp-Up Status on 07.10.2015 showed 7 aircraft in FAL: MSN29 to MSN37 (No A/Cs at Delivery Center), 1 aircraft in DC: MSN 28 and 11 aircraft in IFA: MSN38 to MSN48. MSN28 is all set for delivery to Turkey in November. MSN29 and MSN30 will be handed over to Germany in the same month. MSN16 and MSN21 ready for delivery at the end of the year after conversion to DASS Military Capabilities.

A400M is proven in real operations. Operation Serval in Mali, Operation Sangaris in Central African Republic, Operation Barkhane in African Sahel Region, Support to Operation Chammal over Iraq, Missions to Afghanistan and an Operation in Senegal have all seen A 400M in full action. Tanking ability and refueling pods are a common standard capability and a part of all A400Ms. It is an air-to-air refuelling tanker but it will not be possible to refuel helicopters due to structural and aerodynamics of the aircraft, explained Kurt.

PA2600950“The A400M is an advanced military turboprop airlifter, fully equipped as an air-to-air refueller. It can perform three very different types of duties: it is able to perform both tactical missions directly to the point of need and long range strategic/logistic ones. Powered by four unique counter-rotating Europrop International (EPI) TP400 turboprop power plants, the A400M offers a wide flight envelope in terms of both speed and altitude. With a classic high wing configuration, fuselage with ramp and large rear door, high flotation retractable landing gear and “T” tail, it has a cruise speed of 0.72 mach at altitudes of up to 40,000 feet ,” he said.

Eric Isorce Head of Flight Tests & Operations informed that 1560 hours of 623 flights since last TMB have added to A 400Ms’ achievements. Fourth test campaign completed in Sep-Oct 2015, in Ecury s/ Coole (in France), with operations on GRASS Runway with additional tests on natural soil, to identify effect of surface and of low CBR. Campaign was slow due to bad weather & rainy conditions. Next tests will be coming in Q1/2016 for operations with low CBR and on sand surface type with a possible runway in England.

It may be recalled that the first campaign was done in 2012 for unpaved runways tests in Cottbus Germany on grass runway low CBR, the second test campaign in July 2013 in Ablitas Spain on Soil Gravel surface medium CBR for development and the third test campaign in November 2013 with series of 25 take-off & landing including RTOs and U-Turn for certification. For operations on soil gravel surface for SOC1 down to CBR22 to CBR11 depending braking action/aircraft weight, certification tests were done in November 2013 and CQP approval was given in October 2014.

Under Defensive Aids Sub-System tests, 11 test campaigns were done in 2014 & 2015, in Cazaux, Manching, Meppen, Moron, Greding and El Arenosillo. Last test campaign in October 2015 over El Arenosillo is showing strong improvement for DASS RWR. Next test campaign coming in Q2/2016 with full performance, will bring forth its unique capabilities, said Eric.

“A400M has also got certified for Military Free Fall jumps through PTD up to 29 single door, Military Free Fall jumps through Cargo Ramp up to 12 and Ramp dispatch stick of 12 paratroopers with BT80, S/L and HUPRA (UK) procedure. Tests still ongoing are cw43/44 Ramp dispatch stick of 12 paratroopers using S/L & new HUP proc. (EPC bags mod), Developing/Qualification of paratroopers jumping in auto through PTD (Alternate door, stick 30 to 40 PT), AD Task force ongoing Oct 2015 and Objectives to solve crossover issue,” he explained. AD tests to continue in Q1&Q2/2016 are the ones for full capacity 2x 58 paratroopers in one stick and high altitude AD operations above FL120.

Airdrop Loads by gravity and Extraction parachute towing tests are the results of Roadmap for Oct-Nov 2015 where Single pass – single drop of CDS by Gravity with ERG (up to 8 x 1042kg CDS) from most Aft position have been completed . Platforms by Gravity with ERG (1 or 2 x 4T) from most Aft position 1x 1147kg & 1x 3971kg done. Tests of Extraction (1×4.6T platform from anywhere in CH) expected to be resumed in November. Roadmap for Q1&Q2/2016 is full capacity 24x 1042kg CDS / 25 tons and platforms up to 16 tons by extraction parachute.

Certification & qualification tests completed in February 2015 for Air to Air Refuelling as Receiver in both day & night conditions, by C160 Transall and A330 Voyager. Air to Air Refuelling as a Tanker for Fighter aircraft was done and certification & qualification tests completed in March 2015 for both day & night conditions up to 2x F18. AAR Tests coming on Q1&Q2/2016 will be for CHT Cargo Hold Tank capacity.

PA2600952Antonio Rodríguez Barberán , Head of Sales, Military Aircraft reiterated that its state-of-the-art capabilities and manufacturing make it the most suitable asset to any air force. ” The discrimination in future airforces will be airforces with A400M and without A400M. In order to reduce weight, 30 per cent of the A400M’s structure is made of composites. These parts include most of the wing, with, for the first time in history, composite main spars. Also, nearly the entire tail (the horizontal and vertical stabilizers and the control surfaces), the rear cargo door, the sponsons (undercarriage bays) and the propeller blades (with Kevlar shell) are made of composite. The wing’s 19 m / 62 ft skin panels are the largest ever produced. It has been specifically designed for low detectability, low vulnerability and high survivability. Its high manuverability, its enhanced low level flight capability, its steep descent and climb performance, as well as its short landing and take-off performance, its damage tolerant flight controls, its armored cockpit and bullet-resistant windscreens, the use of inerting gas in the fuel tanks as well as the segregated routing of hydraulics and wiring give it excellent self-protection and survivability. With its minimal infra-red signature EPI TP 400 turboprops, highly responsive fly-by-wire flight controls, four independent control computers, comprehensive defensive aids, and damage tolerant controls, the A400M is hard to find, hard to hit and hard to kill. All these make it a very marketable product,” he said.

The author was at the Airbus Defence & Space facility in Seville, Spain, on an invitation of the company.