We don’t often write about fixed-wing aircraft here on FOB but we do like to follow the A400M given that its principal role is to transport ground forces and their materiel.
Under the new Global Support Service contract for the A400M signed by Airbus Defence and Space with the OCCAR international programme management organisation on behalf of the UK, France and Spain, the three nations will benefit from a spares pool, technical and engineering support, maintenance and flight operations services.
The new agreement, effective 1 December, initially runs for two years as a follow-on from previous contracts which provided support for France and UK in the first years of operation of the A400M. It forms the basis of support for Spain which accepted its first aircraft on 1 December.
This first phase of the agreement paves the way for any other OCCAR nation to join later and benefit from this package as well as additional new services currently under development.
Head of Military Aircraft Services Stephan Miegel said: “The contracts that were put in place to see the A400M into initial service have worked well, but this next stage will provide a sophisticated and highly integrated support service that will further free operators to focus on their mission, knowing that they can rely on robust support for the years ahead. We would encourage other A400M operators to take advantage of these arrangements which we are convinced have the potential to let them operate the aircraft to its maximum capability.”
The idea is to provide customer nations with numerous benefits from sharing these resources and assets in a common central services operation including substantial cost savings, increased efficiency of service, and greater flexibility to meet their specific operational requirements.
The contract was awarded by the UK’s Defence Equipment & Support Agency (DE&S), the French Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) and Spain’s Direccion General de Armamento y Material (DGAM) via OCCAR.
Meanwhile the German Air Force on 12 December received its first A400M, and sixth overall, qualified for tactical operations and able to fly in areas subject to military threats.
The aircraft is the first with the new capabilities. It is fitted with a Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS) incorporating a Missile Warning System, Radar Warning Receiver, and an Expendables Dispensing System to eject flares and radar-confusing chaff. The aircraft also has the ability to air-drop cargo loads of up to 8 tonnes each and paratroops can be dropped from the ramp or side paratroop doors in sticks of up to 20. The aircraft can operate on unprepared runways, fly as low as 150ft by day and 300ft by night above the ground under manual control by the pilot, refuel other aircraft as a tanker, and safely take-off and land in temperatures of up to 55°C at sea level.
In this latest configuration the A400M is approved to take-off and fly on just three of its four engines in the event of a mechanical problem or battle damage.
All five aircraft already in the German inventory will be retrofitted to the new standard and receive subsequent enhancements as those are certified.