The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has received the first A400M military transport from Airbus Defence and Space at the company’s A400M final assembly line in Seville, Spain.

Malaysia ordered four A400M aircraft and training and integrated logistics support services from Airbus under an RM3.5bn ($1.1bn) contract in December 2005, to help supplement the RMAF’s ageing C-130 Hercules aircraft fleet.

The handover also represents the first delivery of an A400M to an export customer outside the original launch countries.

Airbus Defence and Space CEO Bernhard Gerwert said: "These aircraft will transform Malaysia’s Air Mobility Force thanks to the A400M´s unique combination of strategic and tactical capabilities.

"The A400M will give the RMAF the most advanced heavy transport capability in the region."

"Today sends a clear message that the A400M is not just a specialised aircraft designed and developed for Europe’s air forces, but is truly the new reference in tactical and strategic transport market globally, fulfilling both roles in a single machine."

RMAF chief general Dato’ Sri Roslan Bin Saad said: "The A400M will give the RMAF the most advanced heavy transport capability in the region and enable us to undertake an extraordinary range of military and humanitarian operations."

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The aircraft is scheduled to be operated by RMAF’s 22 Squadron. After its arrival in Malaysia, the aircraft will participate in the Langkawi International Maritime and Air Show, which will be held from 17 to 21 March in Langkawi.

The A400M is designated as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities. It can be configured to perform long-range cargo and troop transport, medical evacuation, aerial refuelling, and electronic surveillance missions.

Compared to its predecessor, the aircraft can carry twice the load over intercontinental distances at speeds comparable to jet aircraft. It can also land on short or unprepared airstrips close to the scene of military or humanitarian action.

In addition to Malaysia, the A400M has been ordered by the air forces of Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Spain, Turkey, and the UK.

Image: RMAF officials with the first A400M aircraft at Airbus’ A400M final assembly line in Seville, Spain. Photo: (c) Airbus Defence and Space.