The Directorate General of Armament’s (DGA) In-Flight Trials unit and the French Air Force’s Military Air Expertise Center (CEAM) have successfully completed in-flight refuelling trials on the A400M military transport aircraft with the Rafale multirole fighter jet.
The conclusive flight test campaign demonstrated the A400M Atlas aircraft’s ability to refuel Rafale using its underwing nacelles.
A future upgraded version of the underwing nacelle is expected to allow for refuelling of helicopters.
During the tests, the Rafale jet was refuelled by the A400M throughout its flight envelope at different altitudes and speeds, as well as in degraded aircraft modes.
Carried out at day and night, including with night vision goggles, the in-flight refuelling tests were performed on multiple configurations of the Rafale aircraft.
The trials would allow DGA, which operates as the technical authority for state-owned aircraft, to authorise the Rafale to be refuelled on A400M soon.
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The French Air Force is responsible for identifying and determining the conditions to roll out the new A400M capacity into service in an operational context. This would enable the aircraft to provide a theatre refuelling capacity.
Additional flight refuelling campaigns are planned to be carried out next year.
Built by Airbus, A400M is a tactical airlifter with strategic range and is capable of refuelling several types of aircraft, including fighter jets.
The aircraft offers a basic fuel capacity of 63,500l, which can be further increased in the future with additional cargo hold tanks.
The A400M has the capability to carry strategic loads, deliver to tactical locations with small and unprepared airstrips, and operate as a frontline-tanker for other aircraft.