The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has agreed on a £410m contract with Airbus Defence and Space for the maintenance of the Royal Air Force's (RAF) Atlas A400M aircraft fleet.

The RAF currently has 14 Atlas aircraft in service, with plans to increase the fleet to 22 by 2019.

The in-service support contract with Airbus Defence and Space covers maintenance, upgrade and repair of the aircraft until 2026.

The Atlas programme would support close to 400 jobs at Airbus and other companies including Messier Dowty, Thales, as well as GKN and Rolls Royce.

MoD Defence Equipment & Support organisation Chief of Materiel (Air) air marshal Julian Young said: “The A400M Atlas will form the backbone of the Royal Air Force’s Strategic and Tactical Air Transport capability over the next decade and beyond.

“This key contract will deliver maintenance for our A400M Atlas fleet, enabling this class-leading aircraft to support UK military operations around the globe.”

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Designed to carry up to 37t of payload over a range of 2,000nm, the A400M is the latest addition to the RAF’s tactical airlifter capability.

"The in-service support contract with Airbus Defence and Space covers maintenance, upgrade and repair of the aircraft until 2026."

The aircraft can be used to deploy troops and equipment between and within theatres of operation either by parachute or by landing on short, potentially unprepared airstrips.

Additionally, Atlas can carry armoured vehicles, deploy mobile cranes, excavators and large dump trucks for a variety of operations.

The RAF recently received training systems, including two cockpit simulators and a cargo hold trainer.

Image: The A400M aircraft. Photo: © Crown copyright.