Currently, the A400M has received 174 orders from 9 countries around the world.
Airbus A400M, with four turbofan engines is one of the largest and most modern transport aircraft in Europe. With modern design, stable performance, Airbus A400Ms are considered a formidable opponent of mid-range transport aircraft manufactured by the US and Russia.
The A400M project was researched by Airbus Military in the 1980s under the support of 7 NATO member countries, including Belgium, France, Germany, Turkey, UK, Luxembourg and Spain.
In 2005, South Africa joined the partnership programme with the state-owned Denel Saab Aerostructures receiving a contract for fuselage components. Malaysia is another non-NATO country to be involved in the A400M programme. Malaysia through CTRM is responsible for manufacturing composite aero components for the aircraft.
The A400M project was launched in 2007, the aircraft made its first flight on December 11, 2009 and officially launched in 2013. Currently, the A400M has received 174 orders from 9 countries around the world, the unit price of A400M is about 152.4 million Euro in 2013. The first aircraft was delivered to the French Air Force in August 2013 and entered into service a year after.
The Airbus A400M Atlas was designed as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities to replace older transport aircraft, such as the Transall C-160 and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Previous-generation tactical airlifters have good tactical performance but cannot carry the outsize military and humanitarian relief loads because their cargo holds are too small. Current strategic aircraft are good outsize-load airlifters but are costly and have limited tactical capability as they cannot operate from soft fields.
The A400M is a larger, more modern, truly versatile aircraft specifically designed for today’s requirements and those of the future. The A400M is positioned, in terms of size, between the C-130 and the C-17; it can carry heavier loads than the C-130 and is able to use rough landing strips.
Thanks to its good tactical performance and the ability to carry overweight loads over long distances, the A400M fills the current logistic and tactical capability gap. It has been advertised with the tagline “transport what the C130 cannot to places that the C17 can”.
Along with the transport role, the A400M can perform aerial refuelling and medical evacuation when fitted with appropriate equipment.
Advanced design of the Airbus A400M incorporates extensive use of composite materials. Its design to increases the airlift capacity and range compared with the aircraft it was originally set to replace. Cargo capacity is expected to double over existing aircraft, both in payload and volume, and range is increased substantially as well.
The cockpit flight deck located at the very front of the fuselage, much of the internal space is reserved for cargo; the aircraft’s internal dimensions include a cargo hold usable width of 4m, height of up to 4m, and usable length of 17.7m.
The maximum payload of 37 tonnes can be carried over 2,000 Nautical mile.
The overall length of the A400M is 45.1m (147.97 ft), the height of 14.7m (48.22 ft) and the wingspan of 42.4m (139.11 ft) wide. The cockpit sits atop and behind a short, stubby nose cone that provides for unparallel views to the front and sides of the aircraft. The crew access to the cockpit through a rectangular door at the front of the aircraft.
Wings are set at amidships and four engines are reasonably set up under the wings so as not to obstruct activities on the ground. The wings have hardpoints for the installation of electronic warfare pods and refuelling pods. The tail is configured with a typical T-style that sports a large-area vertical tail fin capped by a pair of swept horizontal tail planes. The undercarriage with a total of 12 wheels arranged in two six-leg pairings is fully retractable and a nose landing gear leg.
The empennage is also raised off of the ground to allow easy entry-exit of loads into and out of the rear loading ramp.
The A400M is powered by four Europrop TP400-D6 engines rated at 11,000 hp each, these engines are the most powerful turboprop engines in the West to enter operational use.
Propeller blades are of composite construction, are 5.33m in diameter and fully reversing. The pair of propellers on each wing turn in opposite directions, with the tips of the propellers advancing from above towards the midpoint between the two engines. This configuration, allowing it to produce more lift and lessens the torque and prop wash on each wing. It also reduces yaw in the event of an outboard engine failure.
Thanks to its state-of-the-art technologies, the A400M has the capability to fly distances up to 8,900 km, at a cruising altitude up to 11,300 m, and at a speed of up to Mach 0.72, very similar to that of a turbofan powered airlifter.
It can even fly up to 12,200 m for special operations. This gives the potential for strategic or logistic missions. Flying faster, the A400M can respond more rapidly to crises because greater distances can be flown in one crew duty day.
Also, as it can fly higher, the aircraft can cruise above poor weather and turbulence found at medium altitudes, resulting in less fatigue for the crews, passengers or troops alike.
This transport aircraft can carry up to 116 fully equipped troops or 66 stretchers and 25 medical attendants. The cargo hold can take nine standard military pallets, two more can be loaded on the rear ramp, simultaneously 54 troops can be seated in the side seats.
This aircraft can drop simultaneously paratroops and cargo. The A400M can also carry tracked or wheeled vehicles, typically two 8×8 armored personnel carriers.
Designed from the outset to be a dual-role transport and tanker aircraft, the A400M provides air forces with a cost-effective way to acquire an air-to-air refuelling capability in addition to a versatile logistic and tactical airlifter. A refueling system can be installed within two hours.
With a basic fuel capacity of 63,500 litres, which can be even further increased with additional cargo hold tanks, the A400M is the most capable tactical tanker on the market.
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