Airbus Defence and Space has announced a milestone in its A400M programme, with the delivery of two examples of the Atlas to two different nations on a single day.
The company handed over the two airlifters to the European Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) during a ceremony in Seville, Spain, on March 20. OCCAR is in charge of management of the A400M programme and represented the customers for the latest two A400Ms: Germany and France.
OCCAR Director Arturo Alfonso-Meiriño said: “It is a great pleasure to see two of the leading OCCAR nations receiving these superb aircraft on the same day in a year when the organisation is itself celebrating the 20th anniversary of the signature of its convention. This is testimony to the effective work performed by OCCAR’s A400M team over many years in managing this exceptionally complex programme.”
The latest deliveries were the 60th and 61st A400Ms to be handed over and take the German and French fleets to 18 and 14 aircraft respectively.
The French aircraft flew to Orléans-Bricy air base the same day. According to the French Ministry of Defence, the delivery took place several months ahead of schedule due to “significant improvements in the quality of delivered aircraft”. Meanwhile, tests conducted by the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) and the air force are poised to increase the tactical capabilities of the aircraft in the near future, including expanded operations from semi-prepared landing strips.
France ordered a total of 50 A400Ms, including a batch of eight in a multi-role tanker/transport configuration. Deliveries were originally scheduled to commence from 2009 onwards, although this date slipped until the third quarter of 2013, due to programme delays. The first Atlas destined for handover to the French Air Force performed its maiden flight on March 6, 2013, with its delivery to Orléans-Bricy taking place on August 1, 2013.
The current German order for 53 aircraft was reduced from an original total of 75, which was initially revised to 60 and then 53. Initial deliveries were delayed, owing to problems with the programme. In late January 2011 it was revealed that the German parliament was discussing the possibility of selling on 13 of its allocated aircraft immediately after delivery. The first Luftwaffe aircraft made its maiden flight on October 14, 2014, and it was officially handed over on December 18, 2014, in Seville, Spain. The next day it was flown to Wunstorf to join the lead unit, Lufttransportgeschwader (LTG) 62.