Airbus military transporter rolled out

The first Airbus A400M military transport aircraft has been rolled out from the EADS production facility in Seville, Spain.

Designed initially to a recognised requirement for a new airlifter for European air forces, the A400M incorporates the state-of-the-art materials and technology, including electronic flight controls, carbon composite structures and an automated handling system.

Launched under a single contract in 2003 with 180 orders for seven European launch customers, the A400M represents the most ambitious military procurement programme ever undertaken in Europe. The launch customer nations, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom were subsequently joined by Malaysia and South Africa, which brought the total number of commitments to 192.

The UK has ordered 25 of the aircraft to replace part of the Royal Air Force fleet of C-130 Hercules transport planes.

The initial contract, worth some 20 billion euros, was signed with a single interface between Airbus Military and OCCAR, (Organisation Conjointe de Coordination en matière d'Armement), the contractual body representing all seven European customer nations).

The A400M was conceived with both tactical and strategic capability and is designed to carry all loads and vehicles in the European Staff Requirement (ESR) inventory, serve as an aerial delivery platform and act as an in-flight refueller for both fast jets and helicopters. With its maximum payload of 37 tonnes it has a range of 1780 nautical miles (NM), while its 'ferry' range is 4700nm.

The aircraft will be able to carry up to 116 paratroopers with a crew of three, comprising two pilots and a loadmaster. Cargo can be dropped either by parachute, gravity extraction from the loading ramp, or by landing on rough landing strips. Flying at low level or at altitude, the turbo-prop A400M will be able to travel at speeds comparable with jet transports.

UK-based companies are playing a significant part in the project, with the largely composite wing design and production taking place at Filton, Bristol, and Rolls-Royce in the UK playing a major role in the engine consortium.

Baroness Taylor, UK Minister for Defence Equipment & Support, said: "The A400M will be the RAF's new state-of-the-art transport aircraft for the 21st century. Capable of carrying a mixture of troops, equipment, vehicles and helicopters to the heart of our operations, these aircraft will be the backbone of support to our troops. Their ability to take off and land on short makeshift strips will enable us to deploy our forces quickly and effectively around the world on a variety of operations. The roll-out marks significant progress in the programme and I look forward to its first flight later this year."

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