Airbus Defence and Space has started assembly of the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) first Airbus A400M military transport aircraft at its final assembly line in Seville, Spain.

The company has joined all the fully equipped major section, including the wing, tailplane, cockpit, fuselage and landing-gear for ground-testing.

In December 2005, Malaysia awarded a RM3.5bn ($1.1bn) contract for the delivery of four A400M aircraft along with training and integrated logistics support services.

The aircraft are scheduled to supplement the RMAF’s ageing C-130 Hercules fleet, and double its operational capabilities by providing a true heavy airlift and air-to-air refuelling capability.

The Airbus A400M is a multi-national four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designated as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities.

With a lifting capacity of up to 30t, the next-generation airlifter can also be configured to conduct long-range, inter and intra-theatre cargo and troop transport, medical evacuation, aerial refuelling and electronic surveillance missions.

"The aircraft are scheduled to supplement the RMAF’s ageing C-130 Hercules fleet."

The aircraft features a six-wheel, high-flotation main landing gear, and a short, soft, field landing and take-off capability, and has also been ordered by the air forces of Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK.

Airbus is currently instructing the first group of Malaysian pilot trainees at the Airbus Defence and Space International Training Centre in Spain.

A new batch comprising Malaysian maintenance engineers and technicians are scheduled to arrive at the centre in the coming weeks.

Airbus is planning to hand over the first A400M to RMAF in the first quarter of 2015, followed by additional two aircraft later that year.

Delivery of the fourth and final aircraft will take place in 2016.

Image: The Royal Malaysian Air Force’s first A400M airlifter being assembled at Airbus’ final assembly line in Seville, Spain. Photo: courtesy of Airbus Defence and Space.

Defence Technology