Airbus starts final assembly of Germany's first A400M aircraft
Airbus Defence and Space has started final assembly of the German Air Force's (Luftwaffe) first A400M Atlas next-generation military transport aircraft.
The assembly of the aircraft, designated MSN18, commenced with the arrival of all major structures, including fuselage at the company's final assembly line (FAL) in Seville, Spain.
Around 60 A400M next-generation airlifters were initially ordered by Germany in November 2010, but the number was later reduced to 53, including seven options, due to budgetary constraints.
In addition to this, Germany expressed plans to sell 13 of the aircraft it has committed to purchase from Airbus to foreign customers in a bid to further reduce the programme costs.
Designated as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities, the A400M can also be configured to perform long-range cargo and troop transport, medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), and aerial refuelling and electronic surveillance missions.
Capable of carrying more than 100 fully equipped troops or a 30t payload, the aircraft features a six-wheel, high-flotation main landing gear, and short soft-field landing and takeoff capability, enabling troop and equipment transportation to Mali or Afghanistan.
Apart from Germany, the four-EuroProp TP400-D6 turboprop engines powered aircraft has also been ordered by the air forces of Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Spain, Turkey and the UK.
Delivery of the first aircraft to the German Air Force is scheduled to take place in November 2014.
Image: German Air Force's first A400M aircraft's fuselage and nose in the A400M FAL in Spain. Photo: © Airbus Defence and Space.