Airbus Defence and Space has started taxiing trials of the German Air Force’s (Luftwaffe) first A400M military transport aircraft.
Undertaken at the company’s facility in Seville, Spain, the trials saw the airlifter moving under its own power for the first time. With this, the aircraft takes another step towards its delivery to Luftwaffe in November.
During the trials, the new generation airlifter successfully taxied forwards and in reverse and performed a series of tight turns.
Powered by four Europrop International TP400 turboprop engines, the aircraft, also known as MSN18, is scheduled to undertake progressively faster trials in the coming days, before conducting its first flight.
The aircraft completed the engine ground run at the same facility in September. It was recently painted in the dark, matte Luftwaffe tone that is claimed to reduce visibility at altitude, and make it harder to detect the aircraft by radar.
Germany ordered 60 A400M aircraft from Airbus in November 2010, but the number was later reduced to 53, including seven options, due to budgetary constraints.
The country announced plans to sell 13 of the aircraft to foreign customers in a bid to further reduce the programme costs.
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 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.
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 aircraft during taxiing trials at Airbus facility in Spain. Photo: courtesy of Airbus Defence and Space.