The Royal Air Force (RAF) has taken delivery of its 20th A400M Atlas C1 transport aircraft. Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson announced the arrival at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire. The aircraft was handed over to the RAF at Brize Norton, home of the UK’s Air Mobility Force.
The handover coincided with trials to test the Atlas’s ability to deliver cargo by parachute and undergo air-to-air refuelling using a RAF Voyager aircraft. The Atlas, which contributed to hurricane relief in the Caribbean last autumn as part of Operation Ruman, is currently deployed on operations in the Middle East and replaced C-130 Hercules in the South Atlantic this spring.
Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson said: “From deploying troops to transporting armoured vehicles, the Atlas aircraft has played a global role in operations in the Middle East against Daesh and providing vital relief in the Caribbean. As we come closer to receiving the full fleet of aircraft, we can be proud of the role the Atlas has played in supporting the RAF lift-off into a new century of air power.”
The newly delivered aircraft has formally entered service with the RAF, ready to begin crew training ahead of operational deployment. In total the UK has ordered 22 Atlas aircraft which are all expected to be delivered to the RAF by the early 2020s.
Adrian Baguley, Director Air Support for Defence Equipment and Support, the MOD’s procurement organisation, said: “The DE&S Atlas delivery team, based at MOD Abbey Wood and Brize Norton, is proud to be delivering the Atlas aircraft for the RAF which means the UK has a world-leading tactical and strategic airlift capability. We will continue to work hand-in-hand with Airbus and trials personnel to ensure that this fleet of world-leading aircraft is fully delivered and qualified for UK operations.”
The cargo delivery trial, carried out by a UK aircraft crewed by Air Warfare Centre and QinetiQ personnel, involved containers weighing around one tonne in weight being dropped in sequence over Salisbury Plain. For the air-to-air refuelling trial, which took place near Seville in Spain, an Airbus-owned Atlas, operated by a joint crew including Airbus and UK personnel, received fuel from an RAF Voyager tanker aircraft over a wide range of altitudes and air speeds. The results from both trials are now being analysed with a view to delivering operational clearances.