Airbus Defence and Space’s A400M military transport aircraft has successfully demonstrated its capability to conduct simultaneous air-to-air refuelling (AAR) of two F/A-18 fighters during a series of trials at an undisclosed location.
During the four flights, the aircraft performed 74 contacts and dispensed 27.2t of fuel to the Spanish Air Force F/1-18s at altitudes of 20,000ft-33,000ft, and airspeeds of 180k-300k, which is the preferred refuelling envelope for fighters.
The A400 is designed to be a dual-role transport and tanker aircraft, and is claimed to be the most capable tactical tanker in the market. It has a basic fuel capacity of 50.8t, which can be increased by the use of extra cargo hold tanks.
The aircraft is already installed with full provisions for after-action review (AAR) operations and only requires installation of the optional air-to-air refuelling kit to turn into a tanker.
It can have a potential ‘fuel give-away’ of 34,000kg when loitering for two hours at a range of 500nm, from base during a typical tanking mission.
Power for the A400 comes from four Europrop TP400-D6 turboprop engines. The aircraft can be configured to perform long-range cargo and troop transport, medical evacuation, aerial refuelling and electronic surveillance missions.
It can carry twice the load of its predecessor over intercontinental distances at speeds comparable to jet aircraft, and can also land on short or unprepared airstrips close to the scene of military or humanitarian action.
The A400 is already in use with the UK, French, German, Turkish and Malaysian Air Forces, and has also been ordered by Belgium and Luxembourg.
Image: The A400M aircraft conducted simultaneous air-to-air refuelling of two F/A-18 fighters. Photo: courtesy of © Airbus Defence and Space 2015 – photo by master films / A DOUMENJOU.