The Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) first A400M military transport aircraft is set to perform its first ground tests and flights in the coming days.

The airlifter has been designated MSN22. It has recently been painted in its new colours at the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Seville, Spain.

Malaysia ordered a total of four A400M aircraft along with training and integrated logistics support services from Airbus under an RM3.5bn ($1.1bn) contract in December 2005.

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

"The first aircraft is expected to be handed over to the RMAF before the end of the first quarter of 2015."

Meanwhile, a number of RMAF pilots, maintenance engineers and technicians are currently pilots, maintenance engineers and technicians undergoing instruction at Airbus Defence and Space International Training Centre in Spain, in preparation for the aircraft’s transfer to the country.

The first aircraft is expected to be handed over to the RMAF before the end of the first quarter of 2015, as reported by Flightglobal.

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

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

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

Image: Malaysia’s first A400M military transport aircraft painted in the national air force colours. Photo: courtesy of Copyright 2013 Airbus Defence and Space.