Over the past few weeks Airbus Military has been conducting pilot training for the A400M tactical airlifter in Toulouse using the MSN3 test-flight aircraft, which paid a visit to Avord BA 702 in central France mid-April. The French MoD invited media to join Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on a day-long tour of the air base April 12, offering a chance to climb aboard several aircraft there, including MSN3.
During the visit, Le Drian said France's forthcoming defense strategy, the Livre Blanc, will emphasize a number of areas key to the nation's air forces, including ISR, space policy, aerial refueling and air transport.
"When I look at air transport, we have insufficiencies that need to be addressed," Le Drian said in remarks to air base personnel. "We saw this in our latest military intervention, (Operation Serval in Mali). We're now remedying that."
Since the operation began mid-January, French forces have had to rely on military transport provided by a number of allies as the French air force awaits delivery of the first A400M, MSN7, ahead of the Paris air show June 17.
The airlifter achieved European Aviation Safety Agency certification in March and is expected to reach initial operating capability (IOC) with delivery of MSN7 in the second quarter 2013. The next major milestone is to achieve Standard Operating Clearance 1 (SOC 1), the first of many upgrades planned through the end of 2018. SOC 1 is targeted for the very end of this year and will add initial air-drop and self-defense capabilities.