18th French A400M transport aircraft arrives with new capabilities

This Wednesday April 2, France is getting its 18th A400M Atlas transport aircraft. For France, this will be the first new A400M equipped with all the capabilities of the most modern standard, allowing in particular: the simultaneous release of paratroopers through the two side doors of the aircraft and automatic flight at very low altitude.

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18th French A400M transport aircraft arrives with new capabilities 01 A400M Atlas (Picture source: Airbus)

Beyond improvements to its avionics, flight controls and engines, this 18th A400M Atlas is the first aircraft of this standard delivered new to the Air and Space Force. It has a set of complementary CHT (Cargo Hold Tank) tanks that can be installed in the cargo hold, which allows it to increase its in-flight refueling capacity.

In addition, the device has two new capabilities certified in May 2020 by the DGA and its counterparts from the six other partner countries of the program.

The first opens the way for the Air and Space Army to drop 116 paratroopers in a single pass, simultaneously through the two side doors of the aircraft. This is a significant improvement on the current capacity limited to 30 paratroopers and by one gate. Two A400Ms previously delivered to the Air and Space Force have already been modified to allow this capability; three more will be completed by the end of 2021.

18th French A400M transport aircraft arrives with new capabilities 02 The A400M excels in its paratrooping role, being able to carry 116 paratroopers who can jump two at a time from the ramp in freefall, or through the paratroop side doors with automatic parachute opening, a state-of-the-art capability that greatly increments its operational possibilities (Picture source: Airbus)

The second is the ability to track terrain at very low altitude in automatic mode under visual flight conditions, a world first for a transport aircraft that demonstrates European excellence in innovation. The extension of this capacity in blind flight conditions will be qualified in 2021; it will play a key role in ensuring the first entry of troops or equipment into a theater of operations.

18th French A400M transport aircraft arrives with new capabilities 03 RAF A400M performing low level flights in Wales, Mach Loop, in 2017 (Picture source: Scott Norbury)

The entire fleet will now have these two new capacities with each delivery.

Pending operational commissioning, the A400M Atlas is ramping up. Its capabilities make it possible to intervene on the front line, in a contested environment, at the heart of a complex and connected system. To this end, it will have a complete self-protection system as well as advanced data transmission systems. These systems can be implemented through tactical modes of action such as the airdropping of equipment, parachutists, or even to assault on any type of terrain, including at the end of a phase of low-level flight penetration anytime, day or night. Finally, the A400M Atlas will be able to perform in-flight refueling missions in operation.

A tactical military transport aircraft with a strategic reach, the A400M Atlas enables the Air and Space Army to perform regular missions in all theaters of operations and overseas locations. It also plays an essential role in the context of airlifts, in particular set up following the passage of cyclone "Irma" and during the current health crisis by ensuring transfers of patients with Covid-19 as part of the Operation Resilience.

18th French A400M transport aircraft arrives with new capabilities 04 Airbus A400M transports masks to Spain in support of COVID-19 crisis efforts (Picture source: Airbus)