Airbus A400M tactical airlifter makes combat debut in Mali

Released by the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) these images show the Airbus A400M Atlas tactical airlifter during its first combat sortie in support to Operation Serval in Mali.

The Atlas “F-RBAB” carrying 22 tons of material, took off from Orléans-Bricy airbase on Dec. 29 at 10.30 LT and arrived at Bamako, Mali, after 6 hours and 40 minutes. On Dec. 31, the aircraft flew from Bamako to Gao.

The first A400M was taken on charge by the Multinational Entry into Service Team (MEST) at Orléans on Aug. 2, 2013.  The first operational mission therefore came only five months after the induction of the aircraft into active service.

Currently, two A400M Atlas are assigned to the MEST. The first operational mission is a step towards the type full operational capability of the type, expected in late 2014.

A400M Mali

Image credit: JL. Brunet / Armée de l’Air


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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. So AirBus continues its operating practice of taking successful American designs and copying them. That’s close enough to a C-130 J that Lockheed should sue.

    • So basicly youre saying to that any car that has 4 wheels, seats and steering wheel is copying other design to?
      A400M is far from C-130 and if you dont see it than youre really blind. And if you actually want to compare this plane to some other design its more close to C-17 than C-130 actually.

  2. Should Lockheed sue anybody that has produced a 4 engine high wing turboprop or any 4 turboprop low wing aircraft because they have producing the L-188 Electra?

    A400M is much modern design with a much bigger capability. It is a strategic transport aircraft covering more the C-17 missions with lower costs. The C130J is a very dependable 1950s intra theatre transport plane not capable of supporting a lot of the missions modern warfare needs.

    Quoting some other:

    “The maximum payload of the A400M is 37 tonnes compared with 19.1 tonnes for the C-130J or 19.6 for the C130J-30 although the USAF C-130 datasheet actually shows the normal maximum C-130J payload as 15.422 tonnes and 16.329 tonnes for the J and J-30 models respectively.

    One of the key factors of the sales pitch for the A400M is that equipment, plant and vehicles are getting bigger and heavier whilst the C-130J isn’t.

    The C-130J can’t lift enough weight.

    Roadside bombs are a bigger and bigger threat. We’re responding by adding more armour to our troop carriers and Land Rovers. But this makes them heavier. A typical Armoured Personnel Carrier now weighs in at 25 tonnes, a C-130 Hercules just can’t lift it.

    C-130 has an inadequate payload/range capability. Post Cold War needs for greater range, payload and volume and reliability. There is a recognition of shortcomings in C-130 capability, C-130’s cargo hold cross-sections far too small for modern loads. C-130 is unable to meet current and future strategic requirements. The latest version of the Hercules (C-130J) does not adequately address any of those shortcomings.

    The A400M has twice the payload/range of C-130J and is quoting the cost per tonne/kilometer per aircraft at €0.46 against a €0.94 cost for a legacy C-130 and €0.57 for a C-17.

    22 x C-130J or 12 x C-130J + 2 x C-17 are needed to do the same job as 10 A400Ms (tonnes delivered x distance flown x availability). And, what does this mean in terms of cost? “

  3. Mr. Dyke, There is certainly plenty of petty
    nationalistic criticism that can be laid at the feet of the A400M. Calling it a
    copy of the C-130 is not one of them. Form follows function in aircraft design.

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