On the “static display” where it was parked behind the large Airbus chalet, the A400M Atlas and a French Army VBCI infantry combat vehicle showed that they were made to work in unison. To be more precise, the Atlas opened its rear ramp on Monday to show France’s President that it could easily accommodate the new French Army troop transport backbone, while it proved that it could just as easily and quickly deliver the armoured eight-wheeler to visiting French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday morning.
Tipping the scales at 32 tonnes in its heaviest version, this VBCI (a joint Nexter-Renault venture) is also the heaviest French Army vehicle that can be carried by the Atlas. Shy of three metres in width at 2.98, the VBCI is far from shaving the Atlas’ hold walls which are four metres apart. German Army drivers, on the other hand, will probably need to take more time to drive their 3.7-metre wide Puma to clear the walls or remove some of the up-armouring plates, although weight-wise the vehicle comfortably complies with the Atlas’ maximum 37-tonne capacity. At this weight, the Atlas delivers at ranges of more than 4,500 kilometres. As way of illustration, Bamako is exactly at 4,000 kilometres from Orléans (home to France’s A400Ms) as the crow flies, only that this crow flies at a swift Mach .72. VBCIs were first driven into trouble’s way in Afghanistan in 2010. 2013 saw their deployment in Mali, and in spite of having repeatedly been targets to RPGs and roadside bombs on both theatres of operations, none failed to return home.