Tag Archives: A400M

Airbus A400M Atlas Tactical Transport Completes Beach Landing Trials.

Interesting Exercise Demonstrates A400M Unimproved Takeoff/Landing Capabilities.

The new Royal Air Force Airbus A400M tactical transport, aircraft ZM414, recently conducted a fascinating tactical capability trial at the Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range in South Wales, U.K.

The Airbus A400M demonstrated its capability to insert into and deploy from unimproved sand airstrips while loaded. This is a critical mission set for tactical transports, especially in support of special operations in forward areas in austere conditions.

While landing and take-off operations from unimproved airstrips have been previously proven with the A400M this test confirmed the aircraft’s capabilities with a heavy load. Close examination of the aircraft’s performance, especially on landing, suggest it was heavily laden during the Pembrey Sands tests.

The testing and verification flights were organized by the DE&S (Defense Equipment & Support) A400M Project Team, based at MOD Abbey Wood in Bristol, working with the Airbus A400M development team and the Royal Air Force.

In a statement released by the MoD (Ministry of Defense) local Wing Commander Simon Boyle told media that the “Indication is that the aircraft will perform very well in the tactical role and on unprepared runways. We’re starting to understand how good the aircraft could be in the tactical environment.”

The Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range is a fascinating test and training range that is effectively an island separated from the mainland on the West and North by an estuary and Carmarthen Bay, then to the East by a shallow, marshy inlet. The southern border is virtually impenetrable thick forest of the Pembrey Country Park.

A RAF Airbus A400M Atlas conducts testing of unimproved forward airfield operations at Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range in South Wales, U.K. (Crown Copyright)

Pembrey Sands is an active live weapons deployment range used by a wide variety of tactical combat aircraft from many countries. Hulks of derelict vehicles and even old Jaguar combat aircraft are strewn around the island for use as targets. It is a unique facility for training and testing of the RAF and other air arms.

Other tactical transports have conducted beach and grass landing exercises at Pembrey Sands prior to the A400M trials including C-130s and C-160 Transalls.

Mission sets that may include the capability to land on unimproved or dirt/sand airstrips could include the insertion of special operations light vehicles for strike and/or reconnaissance missions in denied areas and support of airborne assault operations. The ability to take-off from sand landing areas is especially important for the evacuation of casualties from forward areas. In general a team of pathfinder personnel is inserted into an unimproved, austere landing area to inspect and prepare the landing area and then to act as air and ground traffic controllers once aircraft begin to use the area.

Perhaps one of the most infamous examples of air forces using tactical transports in the special operations role from unimproved airstrips is the April 1980 U.S. Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue hostages in Iran. The mission ended in disaster. A U.S. heavy helicopter and C-130 transport collided in the dark on the ground while forward refueling resulting in a fire and the operation being abandoned. Testing and qualification of the A400M Atlas in sandy, unimproved conditions is a direct effort to avoid similar outcomes in the future.

A significant amount of preparation of the landing/takeoff area at Pembrey Sands was done before for the trials by the 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment, based at the neighboring Rock Barracks.

Despite some early concerns the A400M Atlas development program has gained momentum with several countries including the U.K. and Germany over the past year. This RAF exercise is an example of the program’s continued success.

Watch An A400M Atlas Tactical Airlifter Fly Through The Mach Loop Low Level Training Area

It’s always nice to see a large airlifter maneuver at low level.

Since they made their first appearance in the famous “Mach Loop” earlier this year, Royal Air Force A400M Atlas tactical airlifters are becoming a frequent sight in the valleys of the low level training area in Wales, UK.

Here’s a pass by one of the A400Ms from RAF Brize Norton on Apr. 10, 2017.

The RAF has received its first of 22 Atlas on Nov. 14, 2014 to replace the aging fleet of C-130 aircraft. The Atlas aircraft are assigned to the RAF 70 Sqn and the 24 Sqn, that is Air Mobility Operational Conversion Unit. The 206(R) Sqn, acting as the Heavy Aircraft Test and Evaluation Unit, based at MoD Boscombe Down but with a flight detachment at RAF Brize Norton flies the A400M on loan from other squadrons when required to undertake specific testing activities.

The A400M is capable of carrying a load of 25 tonnes over a range of 2,000NM at speeds comparable with pure-jet military transports. The aircraft is able to fly at high-level altitudes (up to 40,000ft) and at low-level (down to 150ft agl) and this the reason why the Atlas will often pay a visit to the Mach Loop.

Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in troubled spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.

For this reason, in the age of stealth bombers, standoff weapons, drones, cyberwar, electronic warfare, etc. low-level high-speed flying is still important in both planes and helicopters’ combat pilot training.


Airbus A-400M “Grizzly” crosswind testing at Keflavik International Airport

On Feb. 19, an Airbus A-400M “Grizzly” testplane made a quick visit to Keflavik International Airport to perform multiple crosswing landings. The Aviationist reporter Eggert Norðdahl was there to take the following pictures of the testing activity.

The Airbus A-400M registration F-WWMZ (c/n. 006), arrived just after daylight (in the morning) and performed multiple crosswind landings followed by taxi back and take-off from RWY 20. During the activities the tactical airlifter was observed performing approaches of approx. 30 degrees of crab, for incredibly short-landing rolls.

Noteworthy, Keflavik had winds from 080 degrees, at 30 knots, with gusting up to 47 knots.


Image credit: screenshot from FR24.com

This “crosswind storm” knocked down a brand new GSM Tele-Communication mast at the Keflavík Ásbrú district (at the old US Naval Station Keflavík Military area) – and Swedish JAS-39 Gripen and Finnish F/A-18 fighter jets (involved in IAM-2014) temporarily based at the airport were forced to cancel their sorties.


Only a few Norwegian “Shark” aircraft (F-16s) (as wel as a Dutch KDC-10 tanker) took off to perform their “Iceland Air Policing” mission.

The Airbus Grizzly also performed four landings on RWY 11 (into the wind) then pulled in for fuel-stop (and Customs checks) and perhaps a little rest. Later on the same day it took off again and finally daparted back for Europe.

It was last noted at FL310 heading for Toulouse at 18:36 hrs.

Previous aircraft types doing crosswind tests at Keflavik during the last decades were the B-777, A-380, B-787 (twice), B-747i and Sukhoi 100-95 (the latter left Iceland on Dec. 28, 2013, after performing a gear up landing on Jul. 21, 2013).


Image credit: Eggert Norðdahl


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Airbus A400M tactical airlifter to get Thales TopOwl Helmet Mounted Sight and Display

During the Farnborough Airshow 2012, Thales announced that its TopOwl Helmet Mounted Sight and Display (HMSD) has been selected by the Operation for Joint Armaments Cooperation to be flight tested on the Airbus A400M “Atlas”.

Scheduled between June 2012 and April 2013, the tests will have to validate the use of the HMSD by the military transport aircraft crew during night missions.

Image credit: Thales

TopOwl incorporates a night vision function: it provides the same levels of performance as the latest generation of night vision googles (NVG) with a significantly higher level of comfort for the wearer, enabling pilots to fly long missions in complete safety.

The TopOwl visor-projected intensified night vision image is a vast improvement over conventional night vision optics by providing far superior environmental perception along with excellent peripheral vision (something lacking in other systems).

TopOwl itself isn’t new, having already been combat proven in Afghanistan and Libya during night missions by attack helicopters, but it’s the first time the system is going to be used in a fixed wing aircraft.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: David Cenciotti

A400M test flight

An interesting flight could be monitored on Feb. 28, 2011, thanks to Flightradar24: a test flight of the Airbus A-400M F-WWMT (which uses the Mode S and it is “seen” by ADS-B receivers) from Toulouse – Blagnac airport to Corse and return. The following screenshots were taken at 13.40Z, as the aircraft was flying at FL310 at 414KtsM, and at 14.16Z, as the plane was about to land at Toulouse (the track history shows the path followed by the multi-national four-engine turboprop transport aircraft).

On Feb. 15, Grizzly 1, as the A400M development is dubbed, had executed a series of AAR (air-to-air refuelling) trials using a RAF tanker operating from Toulouse, performing dry contacts with the VC10´s fuselage-mounted hose drum unit (HDU).