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Airbus advances A400M tanker testing

Airbus Defence & Space has tested the A400M’s ability to simultaneously refuel a pair of combat aircraft in flight, as it promotes the type’s credentials for the tactical tanker role.

“In the course of four flights, the A400M performed 74 contacts and dispensed 27.2t of fuel” to two Spanish air force Boeing F/A-18As, Airbus says. The activity was conducted at altitudes between 20,000ft and 33,000ft, and at air speeds ranging from 180kt (333km/h) to 300kt, it adds.

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Airbus Defence & Space

Describing the A400M as “the most capable tactical tanker in the market”, the company says the “Atlas” will have the ability to transfer 34t of fuel while loitering for 2h some 500nm (930km) away from its operating base. Its normal maximum fuel capacity is 50.8t, but this can be increased with the installation of additional tanks inside its cargo hold.

Airbus, which is offering the A400M refuelling capability in addition to its baseline airlift application, faces competition in the tactical tanker market from Lockheed Martin’s KC-130J. The US model is operational with the US Marine Corps and the air forces of Italy and Kuwait, and has also been ordered by Saudi Arabia. Competition to both types will also come from Embraer’s KC-390, which made its flight on 3 February.

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