The French Air Force took delivery of its 16th Airbus A400M Atlas turboprop military transport aircraft at the Orléans-Bricy Air Base on Dec. 4, the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly announced. France is expected to take delivery of another 9 A400Ms by during the 2020-2025 period, for a total of 25 aircraft in service by the end of 2025. This 16th A400M is the first aircraft delivered to the Air Force that capable of dropping single loads of up to 16 tonnes. This new capacity is particularly useful to support troops deployed on foreign theaters of operation. For example, it allows dropping large equipment such as earthmovers or engineering vehicles, which are necessary to repair damaged airstrips.
Airbus A400M Atlas is a multi-national, four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed by Airbus Military (now Airbus Defence and Space) as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities to replace older transport aircraft, such as the Transall C-160 and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The A400M is positioned, in terms of size and payload capacity, between the C-130 tactical airlifter and the C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifter. Along with the transport role, the A400M can perform aerial refueling and medical evacuation when fitted with appropriate equipment. The aircraft is powered by four Europrop TP400-D6 engines rated at 8,250 kW (11,000 hp) each.
This 16th A400M is also the first to be equipped with a complete refueling system: it is able to refuel not only fighter planes (Rafale, Mirage, etc) but also transport planes, like another A400M. The tests successfully completed in 2019 by Airbus, with the assistance of the Directorate General of Armament (DGA) and the French Armed Forces, concern the simultaneous release of paratroopers through the side doors and the refueling of helicopters. The final certifications of these two key capabilities are now expected for 2020 and 2021 respectively.
The A400M operates in many configurations including cargo transport, troop transport, and medical evacuation. The aircraft is intended for use on short, soft landing strips and for long-range, cargo transport flights. A tactical military transport aircraft with a strategic range, the A400M Atlas has been operational since 2015 and allows the Air Force to carry out regular missions to all overseas operation theaters and overseas locations. It is designed to carry up to 37 tons of equipment and carry out all transport missions, including assault landing on semi-prepared strips, parachuting personnel and equipment, in-flight refueling and medical evacuations.