Belgian Air Force’s First Airbus A400M Atlas Airlifter Conducts Maiden Flight

The Belgian Air Force’s first Airbus A400M Atlas military transport aircraft conducted its maiden flight on July 30, the service announced.

The flight was performed at Airbus facility in Seville, Spain. During the flight, the aircraft performed a full Production Aircraft Test Manual (PATM) flight test profile.

Once delivered, the aircraft (MSN106) will be operated by the Belgian Air Force’s 15th Wing Air Transport based at Melsbroek Air Base, a part of Brussels Airport.

Belgian Air Force will receive a total of seven A400M aircraft as part of the contract signed in 2001. These aircraft are expected to be delivered between 2020 and 2023 replacing Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules tactical airlifters.

Even though MSN106 is the Belgian Air Force’s first A400M aircraft, it will be the second one to be operated by the 15th Wing Air Transport. The Luxembourg Armed Forces’s lone A400M (MSN104, CT-01), which performed its maiden flight in April, will also be operated by the binational unit (total of 8 A400Ms).

Airbus A400M Atlas

Airbus A400M Atlas is a multi-national, four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed by Airbus Military (now Airbus Defence and Space) as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities to replace older transport aircraft, such as the Transall C-160 and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

The A400M is positioned, in terms of size and payload capacity, between the C-130 tactical airlifter and the C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifter. The aircraft is powered by four Europrop TP400-D6 engines rated at 8,250 kW (11,000 hp) each.

The airlifter operates in many configurations including cargo transport, troop transport, and medical evacuation. Along with the transport role, the A400M can perform aerial refueling when fitted with appropriate equipment. The aircraft is intended for use on short, soft landing strips and for long-range, cargo transport flights.

The A400M program was launched in May 2003 to respond to the combined needs of seven European Nations regrouped within OCCAR (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Spain, Turkey and the UK), with Malaysia joining in 2005. The A400M assembly takes place in Spain; the wings (largely designed with composite materials) are manufactured in the UK, while the fuselage is built in Germany.

The A400M made its first flight on 11 December 2009. The first production aircraft was delivered to the French Air Force in August 2013 and entered into service a year after. The A400M already has seen operational use with the French and Turkish Air Forces in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, African Sahel Region, Mali and in the Middle East to support the air operations over Iraq and Syria.

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