Airbus A400M Atlas

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A400M Atlas
A400M-1969.jpg
The second prototype A400M, Grizzly 2, at the 2010 Farnborough Airshow
Role Strategic/tactical airlift
Manufacturer Airbus Military
First flight 11 December 2009[1]
Introduction 2013
Status In service
Primary users French Air Force
Turkish Air Force

See Operators below for orders

Produced 2007–present
Number built 11
Unit cost
€152.4m[2](FY 2013) (France)

The Airbus A400M Atlas[3][4] is a multi-national four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. It was designed by Airbus Military as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities to replace older transport aircraft, such as the Transall C-160 and the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules.[5] The A400M can perform mission roles other than transportation, including electronic surveillance and aerial refuelling.

The A400M's maiden flight, originally planned for 2008, took place on 11 December 2009 from Seville, Spain.[1] Between 2009-2010, the A400M faced cancellation as a result of development program delays and cost overruns; however, the customer nations chose to maintain their support of the project. A total of 174 A400M aircraft have been ordered by eight nations as of July 2011.[6] In March 2013, the A400M received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification. The first aircraft was delivered to the French Air Force in August 2013.

Development[edit]

Origins[edit]

The project began as the Future International Military Airlifter (FIMA) group, set up in 1982 by Aérospatiale, British Aerospace (BAe), Lockheed, and Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB) to develop a replacement for the C-130 Hercules and Transall C-160.[7] Varying requirements and the complications of international politics caused slow progress. In 1989 Lockheed left the grouping and went on to develop an upgraded Hercules, the C-130J Super Hercules. With the addition of Alenia of Italy and CASA of Spain the FIMA group became Euroflag.

The A400M is positioned as an intermediate size between the Lockheed C-130 and the Boeing C-17. Originally the SNECMA M138 turboprop (based on the M88 core) was selected to power the A400M. Airbus Military issued a new request for proposal (RFP) in April 2002, after which Pratt & Whitney Canada with the PW180 and Europrop International answered; the latter was a new design. In May 2003, Airbus Military selected the Europrop TP400-D6, reportedly due to political interference over the PW180 engine.[8][9]

The partner nations – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Belgium, and Luxembourg – signed an agreement in May 2003 to buy 212 aircraft.[citation needed] These nations decided to charge the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) with the management of the acquisition of the A400M. Following the withdrawal of Italy and revision of procurement totals the revised requirement was for 180 aircraft, with first flight in 2008 and first delivery in 2009. On 28 April 2005, South Africa joined the partnership programme with the state-owned Denel Saab Aerostructures receiving a contract for fuselage components.[10]

Delays and problems[edit]

On 9 January 2009, EADS announced that the first delivery was postponed until at least 2012, and indicated that it wanted to renegotiate "certain technical characteristics".[11] EADS maintained the first deliveries would begin three years after the A400M's first flight. On 12 January 2009, the German newspaper Financial Times Deutschland reported that the A400M was overweight by 12 tons and may not achieve a critical performance requirement, the ability to airlift 32 tons; sources told FTD at the time that the aircraft could only lift 29 tons, which is insufficient to carry a modern armored infantry fighting vehicle, like the Puma.[12] In response to the FTD report, the chief of the German Air Force stated: "That is a disastrous development," and could delay deliveries to the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) until 2014.[13] The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the Luftwaffe is delayed at least until 2017, leading to political planning of potential alternatives such as a higher integration of European airlift capabilities.[14]

On 29 March 2009, Airbus CEO Thomas Enders told Der Spiegel magazine that the program may need to be abandoned without changes.[15] The OCCAR reminded the participating countries that they can terminate the contract before 31 March 2009.[16] On 3 April 2009 the South African Air Force announced that it would start considering alternatives to the A400M due to postponed production and increased cost.[17] On 5 November 2009, South Africa announced it was cancelling the order citing increased cost and delivery delays.[18] On 12 June, The New York Times reported that Germany and France had delayed the decision whether or not to cancel their orders for another six months, while the UK still planned to decide at the end of June. The NYT also quoted a report to the French Senate from February 2009, according to which "the A400M is €5 billion over budget, 3 to 4 years behind schedule, [...] aerospace experts estimate it is also costing Airbus between €1 billion and €1.5 billion a year."[19]

The shortage of military transports caused by the A400M delay led the UK to lease, and subsequently purchase, eight C-17s. France and Germany have also been considering other aircraft, as all three countries need to support their operations in Afghanistan.[20] The ADS Group has warned that shifting the British orders to American aircraft for the short term budget savings would cost much more over time in missed civil and military aerospace business, because they say that the technologies used in the A400M would be a bridge to the next generation of civilian aircraft.[21] In June 2009, Lockheed Martin said that both United Kingdom and France had asked for technical details on the C-130J as an alternative to the A400M.[22]

In 2009, Airbus acknowledged that the program was expected to lose at least €2.4 billion and cannot break even without sales outside NATO countries.[8] A PricewaterhouseCoopers audit of the program projected that it would run €11.2 billion over budget without corrective measures, which would result in an overrun of €7.6 billion.[23] On 24 July 2009, the seven European nations announced that they would continue with the A400M program, and form a joint procurement agency to renegotiate the contract with EADS.[24][25] On 9 December 2009, the Financial Times reported that Airbus requested an additional €5 billion subsidy for the project.[26] On 5 January 2010, Airbus repeated that the A400M may be scrapped, costing Airbus €5.7 billion unless €5.3 billion was added by partner governments.[27] On 11 January 2010, Tom Enders, Airbus chief executive, stated that he was prepared to cancel A400M production if European governments did not provide more funding; delays had already increased its budget by 25%.[28]

On 5 November 2010, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey finalised the contract and agreed to lend Airbus Military €1.5 billion. The program was then least three years behind schedule. The UK reduced its order from 25 to 22 aircraft and Germany from 60 to 53, decreasing the total order from 180 to 170.[29] In 2013 France's budget for 50 aircraft was €8.9bn (~US$11.7bn) at a unit cost of €152.4m (~US$200m), or €178m (~US$235m) including development costs.[2] The 2013 French White Paper on Defence and National Security cut their requirement for tactical transport aircraft from 70 to 50, including aircraft for use by special forces, France envisaged their A400M order will be cut to 35-40 in the 2014-19 budget.[30]

Flight testing[edit]

The first A400M during the world presentation in Seville on 26 June 2008

Before the first flight, the engine's required airborne test time was gained using a C-130 testbed aircraft.[31][32] The first flight of the C-130 testbed occurred on 17 December 2008.[33] The A400M's maiden flight was carried out from Seville on 11 December 2009.[1] The first A400M had flown 39 hours of test flights as of 9 March 2010.[34] The second test aircraft's engines were tested on 18 March 2010 prior to it beginning test flights.[35] The second A400M completed its first flight on 8 April 2010.[36] The third A400M took to the air in July 2010. With this flight the three A400Ms have taken more than 100 flights, totaling 400 hours.[37]

In July 2010, the A400M passed a key test: ultimate-load testing of the wing.[38] On 28 October 2010, Airbus Military announced that it was about to start refuelling and air-drop tests.[39] By October 2010 the A400M had flown 672 hours of the 2,700 hours expected to reach certification. Cold weather testing is to be performed in either Canada or Sweden.[40] In November 2010, the first paratroop jumps were performed from the A400M. Notably Airbus CEO Tom Enders and the A400M project manager Bruno Delannoy were among the group of skydivers in the test.[41][42] In December 2010, the A400M fleet's flight time has risen to 965 hours.[43] A fourth A400M joined the test fleet with its first flight of over five hours on 20 December 2010.[44]

In late 2010, simulated icing tests were performed on the MSN1 flight test aircraft using devices installed on the leading edges of the wing.[45] These revealed an aerodynamic issue causing buffeting of the horizontal tail, necessitating a six-week retrofit to install anti-icing equipment fed with engine bleed air;[45] production aircraft are to be similarly fitted.[45] Winter tests were done in Kiruna, Sweden during February 2011.[46]

The first A400M during its fourth flight on 15 January 2010

By April 2011, a total of 1,400 flight hours over 450 flights had been achieved.[47] In May 2011 the A400M's EPI TP400-D6 engine received certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).[48] In May 2011, the A400M fleet had totaled 1,600 hours over 500 flights; by September 2011, the total increased to 2,100 hours and 684 flights.[49]

Due to a gearbox problem, an A400M was shown on static display instead of a flight demonstration at the 2011 Paris Air Show.[50] By October 2011, the total flight hours had reached 2,380 over 784 flights. A minor problem that occurred during a test for landing on a wet runway led to reconstruction of parts of the main landing gear door which has been damaged by water infiltration.[51]

High altitude start and landing tests were performed at La Paz at 4,061.5 m (13,325 ft) and Cochabamba at 2,548 m (8,360 feet) in Bolivia in March 2012.[52][53][54][55]

The MSN2 flight test aircraft was due to spend the week of 22 May 2012 conducting unpaved runway trials on a grass strip at Cottbus-Drewitz Airport in Germany.[56] Testing was cut short on 23 May, when, during a rejected takeoff test, the left side main wheels broke through the runway surface. Airbus Military stated that it found the behavior of the aircraft was "excellent". The undamaged aircraft returned to Toulouse.[56]

On 14 March 2013, the A400M received its Type Certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency.[57]

Production and delivery[edit]

Assembly of the first A400M began at the Seville plant of EADS Spain in early 2007. Major assemblies built at other facilities abroad were brought to the Seville facility by Airbus Beluga transporters. In February 2008, four Europrop TP400-D6 flight test engines were delivered for the first A400M.[58] Static structural testing of an A400M test airframe began on 12 March 2008 in Spain.[59] By 2010, Airbus planned to manufacture thirty aircraft per year.[60]

The first flight, originally scheduled for the first quarter of 2008, was postponed due to program delays, schedule adjustments and financial pressures. EADS announced in January 2008 that continued development problems with the engines had resulted in a delay to the second quarter of 2008 before the first engine test flights on a C-130 testbed aircraft. The first flight of the aircraft, previously scheduled for July 2008, had again been postponed. Civil certification under European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) CS-25 will be followed later by certification for military purposes. The A400M was "rolled out" in Seville on 26 June 2008 at an event presided by King Juan Carlos I of Spain.[61]

On 12 January 2011, serial production of the A400M formally commenced.[62] On 1 August 2013, delivery of the first aircraft to the French Air Force, it was formally handed over during a ceremony on 30 September 2013.[63][64] On 9 August 2013, the first Turkish A400M conducted its maiden flight from Seville.[65]

Design[edit]

A400M landing gear display at Paris Air Show, 2007

The Airbus A400M will increase the airlift capacity and range compared with the aircraft it was originally set to replace, the older versions of the Hercules and Transall. Cargo capacity is expected to double over existing aircraft, both in payload and volume, and range is increased substantially as well. The cargo box is 17.71 m long excluding ramp, 4.00 m wide, and 3.85 m high (or 4.00 m aft of the wing).[66] and the ramp is 5.40 m long.[citation needed]

The A400M will operate in many configurations including cargo transport, troop transport, medical evacuation, aerial refuelling, and electronic surveillance.[citation needed] The aircraft is intended for use on short, soft landing strips and for long-range, cargo transport flights.[67]

Hamilton Sundstrand propeller for Airbus A400M at the Paris Air Show 2009

It features a fly-by-wire flight control system with sidestick controllers and flight envelope protection. Like other Airbus aircraft, the A400M will have a full glass cockpit (all information accessed through large colour screens) and as such will represent a technological leap compared to the older C-130s and C-160s that many countries now operate.[citation needed]

The A400M's wings are primarily carbon fibre reinforced plastic. The eight-bladed Scimitar propeller is also made from a woven composite material. The aircraft is powered by four Europrop TP400-D6 engines rated at 8,250 kW (11,000 hp) each.[68] The TP400-D6 engine is to be the most powerful turboprop engine in the West to enter operational use.[48] One of the few propeller powered aircraft with swept wings, the turboprops provide an efficient cruise speed of 780 km/h (480 mph) which falls between the C-130 and the jet-powered C-17.[citation needed]

The pair of propellers on each wing of the A400M turn in opposite directions, with the tips of the propellers advancing from above towards the midpoint between the two engines. This is in contrast to the overwhelming majority of multi-engine propeller driven aircraft where all propellers on the same wing turn in the same direction. The counter-rotation is achieved by the use of a gearbox fitted to two of the engines, and only the propeller turns the opposite direction; all four engines are identical and turn in the same direction which eliminates the need to have two different "handed" engines on stock for the same aircraft, which simplifies maintenance and supply costs. This configuration, dubbed DBE (Down Between Engines), allows the aircraft to produce more lift and lessens the torque and prop wash on each wing. It also reduces yaw in the event of an outboard engine failure.[69]

A400M showing its counter-rotating propellers on each wing

EADS and Thales will provide the new Multi-Colour Infrared Alerting Sensor (MIRAS) missile warning sensor for the A400M.[70][71]

The A400M has a removable refuelling probe mounted above the cockpit to allow the aircraft to receive fuel from drogue equipped tankers.[72] Optionally, the receiving probe can be replaced with a fuselage mounted UARRSI receptacle for receiving fuel from boom equipped tankers.[73] The aircraft can also act as a tanker when fitted with two wing mounted hose and drogue under-wing refuelling pods or a centre-line Hose and Drum unit.[72]

Operational history[edit]

A400M flying during the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) 2010

The French Air Force used the A400M on its first operational mission, a flight to Mali, on 29 December 2013.[74][75]

Exports[edit]

South Africa[edit]

In December 2004, South Africa announced it would purchase eight A400Ms at a cost of approximately €837 million, with the nation joining the Airbus Military team as an industrial partner. Deliveries were expected from 2010 to 2012.[76][77] In 2009, South Africa cancelled all eight aircraft, citing increasing costs. On 29 November 2011 Airbus Military reached an agreement to refund pre-delivery payments worth €837 million to Armscor.[78]

Canada[edit]

Airbus Military made a bid in 2006 to supply Canada with the A400M to meet a tender request for 17 new tactical airlifters to replace its old Lockheed C-130E models.[79] Canada ordered four Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIIs and 17 Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules instead.[80]

Others[edit]

In July 2005, the Chilean Air Force signed a Memorandum of understanding for three aircraft,[81] but no order has been placed; Chile began talks on buying the Brazilian Embraer KC-390.[82]

In December 2005, the Royal Malaysian Air Force ordered four A400Ms to supplement its fleet of Lockheed C-130 Hercules.[83][84]

In 2009, the United States Air Force Air Mobility Command requested information on the A400M; the company responded with a proposal for 118 aircraft.[85]

Variants[edit]

A400M Grizzly
Five prototype and development aircraft, a sixth aircraft was cancelled.
A400M-180 Atlas
Production variant

Operators[edit]

Artist's impression of the A400M in German Air Force livery

Orders[edit]

Date Country Orders Entry into service
date
Notes
27 May 2003  Germany 53 Expected November 2014 Order reduced from 60 to 53 (plus 7 options),[86] and will try to resell 13, leaving 40.[87]
 France 50 August 2013 Two aircraft delivered during 2013.[88]
 Spain 27 Expected 2016 Original budget of €3,453M increased to €5,493M in 2010.[89] Requirement reduced to 14 aircraft and will try to resell the remaining 13.[90]
 United Kingdom 22 First aircraft delivered in November 2014[91] Order reduced from 25 to "at least 22".[92]
 Turkey 10 First aircraft delivered in April 2014[93][94] A400M deliveries to be completed by 2018.[95][96]
 Belgium 7 Expected 2018–20
 Luxembourg 1 Expected 2019
December 2004  South Africa 0 N/A Order of 8 units cancelled
8 December 2005  Malaysia 4[83] Expected 2015 Only non-European country to purchase the A400M
Total: 174

Specifications[edit]

Airbus A400M silhouettes
Operational range of A400M with 20-tonne (44,000 lb) and 30-tonne (66,000 lb) payloads, flown from Paris, France

Data from Airbus Military specifications[97]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3 or 4 (2 pilots, 3rd optional, 1 loadmaster)
  • Capacity: 37,000 kg (81,600 lb)
    • 116 fully equipped troops / paratroops,
    • up to 66 stretchers accompanied by 25 medical personnel
  • Length: 45.1 m (148 ft 0 in)
  • Wingspan: 42.4 m (139 ft 1 in)
  • Height: 14.7 m (48 ft 3 in)
  • Empty weight: 76,500 kg (168,654 lb) ; operating weight[98]
  • Max takeoff weight: 141,000 kg (310,852 lb)
  • Fuel capacity: 50,500 kg (111,330 lb) internal fuel
  • Max landing weight: 122,000 kg (268,963 lb)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Europrop TP400-D6[99] turboprop, 8,250 kW (11,060 hp) each
  • Propellers: 8-bladed Ratier-Figeac FH385 and FH386 variable pitch tractor propellers with feathering and reversing capability (FH385 anticlockwise on engines 2 and 4, FH386 clockwise on engines 1 and 3)[100], 5.3 m (17 ft 5 in) diameter

Performance

  • Cruising speed: 780 km/h (485 mph; 421 kn) (Mach 0.68–0.72)
  • Initial cruise altitude: at MTOW: 9,000 m (29,000 ft)
  • Range: 3,298 km (2,049 mi; 1,781 nmi) at max payload (long range cruise speed; reserves as per MIL-C-5011A)
    • Range at 30-tonne payload: 4,540 km (2,450 nmi)
    • Range at 20-tonne payload: 6,390 km (3,450 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 8,710 km (5,412 mi; 4,703 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 11,300 m (37,073 ft)
  • Tactical takeoff distance: 980 m (3,215 ft) (aircraft weight 100 tonnes, soft field, ISA, sea level)
  • Tactical landing distance: 770 m (2,526 ft) (as above)
  • Turning radius (ground): 28.6 m

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

References[edit]

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  99. ^ "A400M engine decision." Airbus.
  100. ^ EASA Type Certificate Data Sheet for A400M-180

External links[edit]