Airbus Helicopters and French defense procurement agency, Directorate General of Armaments (DGA), carried out the first refueling test flight with fuel transfer between an A400M Atlas transport aircraft and a Caracal helicopter, on July 22.
Until now, only “dry” in-flight contact tests had been carried out in order to assess the aerodynamic behavior of the aircraft and to check the feasibility of the contacts between the helicopter’s refueling probe and the A400M’s drogue .
This time, the test campaign, carried out from July 20 to 31, 2020 with an Airbus A400M and a Caracal from the French Air Force’s EH 1/67 “Pyrenees” helicopter squadron of Cazaux, aimed to transfer fuel between the two aircraft in order to assess the flight envelope and refueling performance.
On the Caracal side, this campaign will make it possible to open up the operational capacity for refueling by A400M in addition to that by KC-130J Super Hercules of the Air Force. On the A400M side, the aircraft is already suitable for refueling fighter planes like the Rafale or wide-body aircraft like the C-130 or even another A400M. This campaign prepares for the addition of the helicopter refueling capacity, scheduled for 2021. It is one of the last capacities still to be qualified under the final aircraft standard expected in 2022.
The DGA Flight Tests center of expertise and tests supervised the performance of these tests, in compliance with specific health measures. The A400M and the Caracal were operated by mixed DGA/Airbus crews.