Airbus Military has today released a fresh-from-the-paint-hangar image showing the first production A400M Atlas in the colours of launch operator the French air force.
With some of the Armee de l'Air's aged C160 Transall and C-130H Hercules tactical transports currently supporting its Operation Serval activity in Mali, MSN7's move towards first flight and a mid-year delivery date provides a promising glimpse of what its future inventory will hold. No surprises, though, in the Airbus Military-provided shot depicting an aircraft in typically drab military transport livery.
While some French troops and equipment have arrived at Bamako airport near the Malian capital aboard a Royal Air Force Boeing C-17, France's eventually 50-strong fleet of A400Ms will deliver a real increase in payload-lifting capability over the coming years: certainly enough for it to move its own armoured vehicles by air next time.
I reckon that the chances of Airbus Military's A400M press briefing at this year's Paris air show including more than a few range/payload charts depicting how the Atlas would have aided its African intervention is a 100% certainty. But will we see France's first example in the static line or flying display, I wonder?