An A400M Atlas aircraft deployed with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) has delivered a record-breaking cargo load during a test conducted to evaluate the aircraft’s next-generation capabilities.

During the trial, the Airbus-built turboprop military transport aircraft dropped a cargo load of 23t by parachute over the Salisbury Plain in the UK.

The A400M Atlas demonstrated its ability to deliver heavy loads such as military equipment, supplies, and humanitarian aid, without the need to land on the ground.

The tests were conducted under the supervision of the UK Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) together with the RAF, the Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit (JADTEU), and the Air Warfare Centre (AWC). QinetiQ and Airbus also supervised during the tests.

DE&S Atlas A400M delivery team leader James Dowson said: “These successful trials involving the largest load ever air-dropped by a UK aircraft are an impressive demonstration of A400M’s ability to deliver essential cargo to where it is needed.

“These successful trials involving the largest load ever air-dropped by a UK aircraft are an impressive demonstration of A400M’s ability to deliver essential cargo.”

“This has been a fantastic team effort bringing together staff from DE&S, the RAF A400M community at Brize Norton, as well as our industry partners to mature tactical capabilities for front-line use in RAF operations.”

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Results obtained from the trials will now be provided for the Atlas development programme, which has been designed to qualify the Atlas aircraft to carry out heavy-load air-drop operations while in active service with the RAF.

The airforce is developing the A400M fleet to complement its existing fleet of C-130J Hercules aircraft, which can deliver a maximum cargo weight of approximately 15t via its Container Delivery System.

The trials on the A400M Atlas jets are being carried out by the RAF’s 206 Squadron, which is based at RAF Brize Norton alongside front-line squadrons XXIV and LXX.

The RAF will receive a total of 22 A400M aircraft from Airbus, all of which are expected to be delivered to the service by the early 2020s.