The Belgian air force's new Airbus A321 was officially presented on 20 May, as a replacement for an A330-300 which had been in use since late 2009.

The asset will be used to transport troops and conduct the emergency evacuation of people and cargo, if required.

Belgian air force A321 - AirTeamImages


Based at Brussels-Melsbroek, the grey-liveried aircraft has already conducted its first operational flight, to Bamako in Mali, according to Belgian newspaper De Standaard.

By replacing the A330 with the A321, the Belgian defence ministry could save €4.3 million ($5.9 million) annually, with the smaller aircraft having a capacity of 152 passengers and a 2,320nm (4,300km) range.

Like the A330, the new aircraft is leased from Portuguese company HiFly.