Airbus Defence & Space has demonstrated the operational utility of a firefighting kit adaptation to its A400M, recently completing a flight-test activity in Spain.

During a two-week campaign supported by technical advisors from the Spanish air force’s 43rd Firefighting Squadron, an Airbus test aircraft trialled an improved prototype roll-on/roll-off firefighting kit. This involved the airlifter completing six 20,000 litre drops of water and red-coloured retardant.

A400M red fire retardant pass

Source: Airbus Defence & Space

Tactical transport can drop 20,000 litres of water or retardant during a single pass

Low-altitude passes resulted in “high-concentration [retardant] lines over 400m [1,310ft] long”, the company says.

“We continue to pioneer new solutions and capabilities for our A400M fleet, in this case protecting populations and natural environments from fires,” says Jean-Brice Dumont, head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence & Space.

An earlier version of the firefighting kit – which can be installed without permanent modification to the A400M – had been assessed in July 2022. Dumont says design enhancements since that time have resulted in improved dropping efficiency and a 30% reduction in discharge time.

“The water or retardant is stored in a tank in the cargo hold and, by using a mechanical lever, a door is opened to allow the liquid to flow out of the aircraft by gravity means through a discharge pipe,” Airbus explains. The tank can be refilled on the ground in less than 10min “using standard high-pressure pumps”, it adds.

A400M drops red fire retardant

Source: Airbus Defence & Space

Airlifter uses roll-on/roll-off kit with cargo hold tank for firefighting adaptation

Airbus claims that its kit “offers capabilities not available on the market, thanks to its high-dropping capacity, high manoeuvrability with the latest safety standards, day and night operation and the potential to convert any regular A400M in any fleet to a firefighting aircraft at very short notice”.

Some 121 A400M Atlas transports have been delivered to date, from total orders for 178 examples. Current operators are Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Spain, Turkey and the UK, with the type also on order for Indonesia and Kazakhstan.