The German Air Force has taken delivery of the first A400M tactical transport aircraft from Airbus Defence and Space at its final assembly line in Seville, Spain.

Airbus is under contract to deliver 53 A400Ms to the German Air Force for replacement of its Transall C-160 transport fleet.

Airbus Defence and Space chief executive officer Bernhard Gerwert said: "The A400M will play a critical role in the modernisation of Germany’s air mobility force.

"The unique combination of strategic and tactical capabilities, allied to a level of reliability greater than that of the previous generation aircraft that it is replacing, will transform the German Air Force’s transport operations in the coming years."

Designated MSN18, the aircraft successfully completed its maiden flight in October of this year.

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

"The A400M will play a critical role in the modernisation of Germany’s air mobility force."

The airlifter is capable of carrying twice the load of its predecessor over intercontinental distances at speeds comparable to more expensive jet aircraft. It can still land on short or unprepared airstrips close to the scene of military or humanitarian action.

Initially, Germany ordered 60 A400M aircraft in November 2010, but the number was later reduced to 53, due to budgetary constraints.

The country then announced plans to sell 13 of the four Europrop International TP400 turboprop engine-powered aircraft to foreign customers in a bid to further reduce the programme costs.

Apart from Germany, the aircraft has also been ordered by the air forces of Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Spain, Turkey and the UK.

Image: German Air Force’s first A400M tactical transport aircraft during its maiden flight test. Photo: courtesy of Airbus Defence and Space.