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Three missions, one aircraft: Airbus A400M shows its potential in the UK

The mission, which was carried out by the Airbus MSN6 prototype out of Royal Air Force Brize Norton

Three missions, one aircraft: Airbus A400M shows its potential in the UK

Airbus Defence and Space successfully completed a Crew Workload Assessment mission that was carried out in the UK as part of its commitment to the nations using the A400M under the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR).

The mission, which was carried out by the Airbus MSN6 prototype out of Royal Air Force Brize Norton, had as its goal assessing the crew workload while carrying out the three tactically important functions of the A400M in a single flight: aerial delivery, low-level flight, and air-to-air refueling.

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This mission is particularly significant because it gives our customers clear assurance that the A400M is a mature, capable tactical asset, according to Simon Nicastro, Airbus’s manager of the A400M Flight & Integration Test Program.

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The A400M exercised its muscles over the skies of the UK during this exercise, demonstrating its superiority in terms of speed and height. The initial part of the mission, which was above Scotland, was aerial refueling using the MSN6 as a receiver from an RAF A330 MRTT Voyager tanker. Although it was not tested in this mission, the aircraft’s built-in air-to-air refueling capability enables the aircraft to be quickly converted to become a tanker, a feature that is exclusive to the A400M. Rapidly changing operational conditions demanded rapid changing configurations.

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The MSN6 demonstrated its capabilities during the flight’s last phase by “playing” with both speed and height. Four loads of one tonne each were dropped over a controlled drop zone from the cargo hold during this phase. The A400M is perfect for dropping supplies from low altitude due to its low-speed characteristics. Once on the ground, it is built for extremely quick cargo unloading or loading without the need for specialized ground support equipment, reducing the aircraft’s susceptibility to hostile action.

Two pilots and one loadmaster, aided by two competent cargo crew, completed the entire operation. The Certification and Qualification Organization (CQO) crew authority were also present at the controls to ensure that the workload results were acceptable.

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For such a mission, there is an experienced team working in perfect harmony with the customer. “This is the last complex campaign to coordinate and execute with our customers, involving a significant amount of Government Furnished Facilities (GFF) provided by the UK MoD and the Royal Air Force, including aerial delivery loads, a Voyager tanker, and several military zones.

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For ongoing military operations, parachuting is still a crucial capability. The Royal Air Force’s A400M will be the aircraft that delivers the military’s parachuting capabilities in 2023, and recently, paratroopers of the RAF made the first low-level parachute descents from it.

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