French Air Force Receives Newest-Standard Airbus A400M

A400M
Credit: Mathilde Défossez/armée de l’Air et de l’Espace

LYON, France–The French Air and Space Force has received its 18th Airbus A400M transport, the first one including advanced capabilities right from delivery.

After the French procuremdent agency’s air warfare center (DGA/CEAM) evaluated the aircraft, it joined the existing fleet at the Orleans-Bricy air base on April 2. It features the ability to drop paratroops simultaneously from its two lateral doors, as well as a mode for automated low-level flight. Both were certified in May 2020.

The force’s previously delivered two A400Ms do include those capabilities, but they only came after a retrofit. It expects another three of its A400Ms to be retrofitted to the standard this year.

With the new model, a total of 116 paratroops can be dropped in one pass, up from 30.

Cargo hold tanks increase the aircraft’s inflight refueling capacity. But that possibility is scheduled for certification–including refueling fighters, transports and helicopters–in 2022. A search-and-rescue capability is also slated for approval next year.

France’s military programming law plans for a fleet of 25 A400Ms to be in service in 2025. The A400M, dubbed Atlas in the French forces, is considered a key asset for entry force missions. Philippe Lavigne, the chief of staff of the French Air and Space Force, has consistently praised the type for its payload-range performance and reliability.

Thierry Dubois

Thierry Dubois covers French aerospace for Aviation Week & Space Technology.