International forces conducted a large-scale aid airdrop into Gaza on 9 April 2024, timed to coincide with Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, with a UK Royal Air Force (RAF) A400M transport aircraft participating, delivering 10 tonnes of aid along the strip’s northern coastline.

In a 9 April release, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) stated that the international airdrop into Gaza was the largest of its kind conducted on a single day, which saw 14 aircraft from nine nations paradropping aid. The mission was led and coordinated by the Jordanian Armed Forces.

The MoD said that the RAF A400M departed from Amman Jordan, with the flight taking around one hour to complete. Other nations’ aircraft were given different time slots to deliver aid throughout the day. Normally based at RAF Brize Norton, the combined RAF/British Army team has dropped 53 tonnes on six flights into Gaza over the last two weeks.

“We continue to push Israel as hard as we can to get more aid across the border and delivered throughout the region. Words must turn into action – this is essential to avoid an even more severe humanitarian crisis,” stated UK Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron.

“Sunday marked six months since the devastating October 7 [2023] terrorist attacks, and almost a week since British aid workers were killed trying to get life-saving food to those in need. The UK continues to call for an immediate humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable ceasefire, as the fastest way to get hostages safely home and more aid in,” he added.

With the United Nations warning that famine is a real possibility in the territory after six months of war following Hamas’ bloody attacks on 7 October 2023, the international community has been trying to unlock the impasse in delivering humanitarian aid. A new maritime corridor, which will see a temporary pier built by US forces, will enable ships to deliver aid via the sea.

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The aid being delivered via the maritime corridor will be pre-screened in Cyprus before being permitted to depart for Gaza.

The ‘Atlas’ – RAF A400M

The UK RAF operates a fleet of 22 A400M ‘Atlas’ transporters, manufactured and delivered by European aerospace prime Airbus. The platform is able to carry 37,000 kg of payload, 116 fully equipped soldiers, or up to 66 stretchers accompanied by 25 medical personnel.

In May last year the UK received its final aircraft from Airbus, offsetting to some degree the loss of the smaller, but more flexible, C-130J Super Hercules tactical transport aircraft, which were retired from service in 2023.

In an operational snapshot taken in November 2022, it was revealed that the RAF’s C-130J fleet had a lower availability than their C-17 and A400M counterparts in 14 out of the previous 19 months, beginning 1 March 2021 to 1 September 2022, including five months where the fleet availability rate dropped below 60%.

Availability reached a peak of 71% in five separate months during the reporting period, with between eight and ten aircraft free to undertake operations. By comparison, the A400M achieved rates of 65%-70% with either 13 or 14 aircraft available at any given time.