After development and production activity lasting just over 10 years, Airbus Military's A400M military transport is now an in-service asset, following the delivery of lead aircraft MSN7 to the French air force.
France's DGA defence procurement agency on 1 August authorised the aircraft's acceptance, following several months of discussion with the manufacturer.
"This enables the aircraft to join tomorrow the French air base of Orléans-Bricy," Airbus Military says. A formal ceremony to mark the type's delivery will be staged at the company's San Pablo final assembly site in Seville, Spain, "after the summer break", it adds.
According to the manufacturer, MSN7 "will initially be used for the continuing training of aircrew, before becoming part of the French air force operational transport fleet". It will be followed by two more French A400Ms this year, under a 50-unit order for Paris.
Europe's OCCAR defence procurement agency signed a combined development and production deal for 180 A400Ms in May 2003, acting on behalf of programme partners Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK. Their combined order was revised down to 170 transports, plus 10 options in 2011, while Malaysia is also under contract to receive four of the type.
"Today is a truly historic day for the European aerospace industry, marking the moment at which it becomes the new global leader in the military transport sector with an entirely new aircraft," claims Airbus Military chief executive Domingo Ureña-Raso.
The acceptance milestone was confirmed one day after the European partner nations had formally approved the A400M's initial operational capability standard via OCCAR, and also followed Airbus Military's receipt of a military type certificate for the airlifter on 24 July.
Deliveries of the Europrop International TP400-D6-engined A400M had originally been planned to commence in late 2009. Seven examples - five "Grizzly" development aircraft and two production-series turboprops for France - have so far been flown, accumulating more than a combined 5,000h in the air.