Airbus A400M passes helicopter air-to-air refuelling test

written by Hannah Dowling | April 22, 2021
File image of a German Air Force Airbus A400M in flight (Wikimedia)

European planemaker Airbus’ Defence and Space division is one step closer to securing air-to-air refuelling certification for its A400M military transport aircraft.

The Airbus A400M airlifter has now completed the majority of its development and certification objectives for its air-to-air refuelling certification campaign following a successful demonstration.

Airbus Defence and Space aims to secure full helicopter air-to-air refuelling certification later this year following the conclusion of all mandatory night operation trials. The refuelling tests, which were performed in coordination with the French Armament General Directorate (DGA), involved operations with two French Air Force H225M helicopters.

The demonstrations took place in both day and night conditions over the west coast of France at between 1,000 feet and 10,000 feet at flight speeds as low as 105 knots.

A total of 81 wet contacts and transfers of 6.5 tonnes of fuel were completed during the flight tests, which included simultaneous refuelling of two helicopters.

According to Airbus, the tests confirmed the positive results of the dry and wet contact operations undertaken in 2019 and 2020.

“Helicopter air-to-air refuelling is a unique military capability and key for Special Forces operations, involving aircraft with different flight profiles and sharing a very limited common flight envelope, requiring close formation flying patterns at low altitudes and night time conditions,” Airbus noted in a statement.

“With this capability the A400M becomes one of the few tanker aircraft in the world capable of such operations.”

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The A400M is built to carry up to 50.8 tonnes of fuel in its wings and centre wing box, without compromising any cargo hold area.

According to Airbus, the aircraft is also capable of carrying two additional cargo hold tanks, providing a further 5.7 tonnes of fuel each. This supports the use of different types of fuel, enabling the A400M to support a number of receiver aircraft.

Courtesy of Charbel Kadib.

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