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New flight-test campaign of the A400M Roll-on/Roll-off firefighting prototype kit
As the video in this post shows, Airbus Defence and Space has conducted a new flight-test campaign of the A400M Roll-on/Roll-off firefighting prototype kit, dropping 20,000 litres of retardant and creating high concentration lines over 400 metres long on ground.
Over a period of two weeks, the A400M carried out a ground and flight-test campaign in south-western and central Spain, including six drops, three of which used red-coloured retardant and three using water.
“We have tested a new version of the kit, improving dropping efficiency and reducing discharge time by over 30% compared to last year, while combined with rapid deployment and easy installation on the A400M aircraft,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space, in a company news release. “We continue to pioneer new solutions and capabilities for our A400M fleet, in this case protecting populations and natural environments from fires.”
A400M Roll-on/Roll-off firefighting prototype kit
This roll-on/roll-off kit does not require any modification to the aircraft and, therefore, is interchangeable to any aircraft in the A400M fleet. The water or retardant is stored in a tank in the cargo hold of the aircraft and, by using a mechanical lever, a door is opened to allow the liquid to flow out of the aircraft by gravity means through a discharge pipe. The current design of the prototype is capable of dropping 20,000 litres in a single discharge.
The tanks can be filled in less than 10 minutes using standard high-pressure pumps on ground. The A400M is characterised by its ability to take off and land on short and unpaved runways, and a wide range of air bases and airfields.
During the campaign, the 43rd Firefighting Squadron of the Spanish Air Force has been involved as technical advisors and assuring that this capability in the A400M has operational value for any potential operator.
In July 2022, Airbus tested a removable firefighting demonstrator kit on the A400M for the first time. The company concluded that the A400M firefighting kit offers additional capabilities not available on the market thanks to its high-dropping capacity, high manoeuvrability with the latest safety standards, day and night operation and the potential to convert any regular A400M in any fleet to a firefighting aircraft at very short notice.
The A400M Atlas
The A400M Atlas is the proven, certified and in-operations most advanced airlifter with 21st century state-of-the-art technologies. The Atlas can airlift in its large cargo bay most of the critical armed forces equipment that no longer fits in previous generation tactical airlifters, such as a heavy helicopter, an infantry fighting vehicle or a humanitarian excavator. Thanks to its combined strategic and tactical capabilities, the A400M has proven better range, speed, altitude, payload and tactical performance than previous-generation tactical airlifters, enabling the delivery of game-changing capabilities to the point of need, such as next to a natural disaster or a theatre of operations where strategic airlifters cannot operate. The A400M enables cost-effective and rapid response to crises. The aircraft has also demonstrated its worth in supporting humanitarian and disaster relief operations as well as VIP transport.
The A400M 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 Atlas 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.
Photo credit: Airbus