The French air force’s seventh of an eventual 50 A400M tactical transports has touched down at its Orléans-Bricy air base, as the service gets ready to support airdrop testing involving the Airbus Defence & Space type.
Accepted by the DGA defence procurement agency in Seville, Spain, on 19 June, aircraft MSN19 is the first French air force example to be received in a new configuration capable of performing the airdrop of equipment.
French air force
Speaking at the Paris air show on 17 June, France’s A400M programme manager said a six-week programme of airdrop testing involving the type will start soon, having been postponed following a fatal accident in Spain on 9 May.
To be performed using one of Airbus’s “Grizzly” test aircraft, the work will involve personnel from several customer nations. “Our aim is to clear the capability early in 2016,” the French official says.
The acceptance of the latest French air force aircraft happened one day after Airbus had received approval from Spain’s DGAM authority to resume production deliveries of the “Atlas”. That move represented the “lifting of all remaining flight restrictions on new production aircraft”, the company says.
Another A400M, which had also been poised for delivery prior to the crash, will be delivered “in a matter of days”, Airbus says, “with a number of others to follow in the coming weeks”. All of these examples are awaiting acceptance by the UK Royal Air Force.
“The production plan for the year is under review following the accident, but is still targeting at least 13 aircraft in 2015, plus up to four more subject to flight-test results due this summer,” says Airbus.
“We are working hard to bring the schedule back on track while continuing to support the [accident] investigation,” says Airbus head of military aircraft Fernando Alonso.
MSN19 is the 13th A400M to have been delivered to a customer, with Turkey and the UK each having fielded two examples and Germany and Malaysia one each.