The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has officially unveiled the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) first A400M Atlas next-generation military transport aircraft at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
The aircraft was delivered earlier this month by Airbus Defence and Space as part of a £2.8bn contract awarded by the MoD for supply of 22 A400Ms in November 2010.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The arrival of the A400M Atlas will greatly add to our defence capabilities, increasing our ability to move troops and deliver military equipment, aid and medical supplies anywhere in the world quickly and effectively.
"It will be a huge contributor to future air mobility in the RAF and is a further example of this government’s continued investment in the equipment our armed forces need, which is only possible thanks to difficult decisions taken elsewhere as part of our long-term economic plan."
UK Defence Minister Philip Dunne said: "The programme has been at the forefront of modern technology, with its software, wings and aircrew simulator British-manufactured, creating or securing work for around 8,000 people in the UK.
"Working with our European partners and industry we have been able to deliver this world-class airlift capability to the RAF to support our servicemen and women as they carry out operations around the world."
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Operating from RAF Brize Norton, the aircraft is expected to offer significant contribution to the RAF’s air transport missions, by enabling the service to rapidly move people and equipment worldwide for military and humanitarian operations.
Apart from transporting the UK’s growing family of 30t protected mobility vehicles, including the Scout or Foxhound vehicles, the A400M is also capable of carrying up to 116 armed forces personnel, including paratroopers.
By the end of the year, the RAF will receive two additional two aircraft, which are scheduled to replace its decommissioned fleet of C1/C3 (C-130K) Hercules transport aircraft, as reported earlier by DefenseNews.
The aircraft is already in service with France and Turkey, and has also been ordered by the air forces of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Malaysia.
Image: The first Royal Air Force A400M Atlas arrives at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. Photo: courtesty of Steve Lympany, Crown copyright.