Airbus Defence and Space has developed and tested a loading system to lift outsized military cargo into the Airbus Beluga A300-600ST aircraft. The capability was successfully tested during a verification exercise with the German armed forces, the system’s first customer, by loading a CH53 military medium-lift helicopter into the Beluga. Prior to announcing plans to offer the services of its existing BelugaST fleet earlier this year, the fleet of five aircraft was solely used for the transport of large aircraft sections between various Airbus sites as part of the company’s production system. With the advent of the new BelugaXL, based on the larger A330-200 platform, the existing BelugaST fleet is made ready for customer transport services worldwide.
The new self-funded cargo loading system and jig, developed by engineers at Airbus Defence and Space, have now been unveiled to customer representatives from international armed forces following the verification event in Manching, north of Munich. The system was developed and manufactured from scratch in 1.5 years – from the initial exchange of ideas with the German customer to its verification, which is still subject to final confirmation by the Bundeswehr in the coming weeks. The system enables arrangements for the loading of a CH53 in a reduced state of dismantling to be completed within less than 1.5 hours while the actual loading process into the Beluga aircraft can be accomplished in about an hour. The total lifting capacity of the system, which requires no crane for its use, reaches 35 tonnes and can be relocated to the aircraft’s destination.
“The demand for outsized air cargo capability is on the rise. Capacity is scarce and, in light of current geopolitical developments, many customers are looking for new, fast and efficient solutions. This is exactly what we offer with our BelugaST fleet. Our teams have been working on a remarkable solution to facilitate a speedy, efficient and autonomous handling to load heavy military cargo onto the aircraft. Speed, agility and autonomy are crucial elements for our customers when it comes to such operations,” said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space.
The Airbus A300-600ST (Super Transporter), or Beluga, is a version of the standard A300-600 wide-body airliner modified to carry aircraft parts and outsize cargo. It received the official name of Super Transporter early on; however, the name Beluga, a whale it resembles, gained popularity and has since been officially adopted. The wings, engines, landing gear, and the lower part of the fuselage remain identical to those used on the conventional A300, while the upper part of the fuselage forms an enormous horseshoe-shaped structure 7.7 m (25 ft) in diameter. In comparison with the Super Guppy, the payload was more than doubled and the volume increased by more than 30% The General Electric CF6-80C2 turbofan engines used are slightly uprated from those used on the standard A300 as well.Its replacement, the BelugaXL, entered service in January 2020.