Airbus A400M Tests Fuelling Trials with Helicopters

The Airbus A400M which is certified to be quickly configured as a tanker. This excludes the requirement to develop dedicated tanker versions of the A400 M. The aircraft carries 50.8 tonnes of fuel in its wings and center wing box. This allows the aircraft to retain the cargo hold for other purposes. In case more fuel is required to be carried, the cargo hold can be fitted with two additional tanks of 5.7 tonnes each. This allows the A400M to carry different types of fuels for different aircraft.

Image Courtesy Airbus

The A400M has completed air to air refuelling trials with fast moving fighter aircraft like the Rafael, Eurofighter, F/A-18 and Tornadoes. It can also refuel large aircraft like another A400M, C295 or C-130. However helicopter air to air refuelling requires slow flights at low altitudes.

The A400M conducted dry refuelling trials with Airbus H225M helicopters at altitudes between 1,000 and 10,000 feet. The tests were carried out over four sorties and involved 51 dry contacts. The speed during these trials were as low as 105 knots (189 km/h). Wet contact trials are expected before end of 2019 and the final certification of the aircraft is expected by 2021.

Image Courtesy Airbus

The A400M is a four engine turbo-prop aircraft. It was designed as a tactical air lifter with strategic capabilities. It is larger than the American C-130 but can land and takeoff from rough landing strips. It has a crew of 3 including two pilots and a loadmaster. The cargo compartment is 4 m wide, 3,85 m high and 17.71 m long. It can carry 116 fully equipped troops or 66 stretchers with 25 medics or 37,000 kg of cargo.

The aircraft is 45.1 m long, has a wingspan of 42.4 m and height of 14.7 m. Its maximum takeoff weight is 141,000 kg and can carry 50,500 kg of fuel. The aircraft is powered by four Europrop TP 400-D6 turboprops, each producing 11,000 hp. The propellers are eight blade Ratier-Figeac FH385 variable pitch tractor propellers with feathering and reversing capability. They have a diameter of 5.3 m.

Image Courtesy Airbus

The A400M has a cruising speed of 781 km/h, at 9,450 m. It has a service ceiling of 12,200 m and a cruising altitude of 9,000 m. The range of the A400M varies with load its is carrying. Its normal range is 3,300 km at maximum payload. However, carrying a 30 tonne payload it can stretch the range to 4,500 km and with 20 tonnes, it can fly another 1,900 km to 6,400 km. The ferry range without any load is however, 8,700 km.

The A400M can take off from a 990 m long airstrip while it needs 770 m for landing. The A400M is in service with Germany, France, Spain, United Kingdom, Turkey, Belgium, Luxembourg and Malaysia.

Video Courtesy Airbus
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