The French Ministry of the Armed Forces has announced that the French Air Force’s A400M Atlas transport aircraft is now able to drop paratroopers belonging to the three services through the aircraft’s side doors. This new operational clearance marks an important step in the ramp-up of the tactical capabilities of the A400M Atlas for the benefit of airborne units. The first operational training for automatic parachute drops through the side door took place on May 12th. This exercise was held at the School of Airborne Troops (Pau) with an Air Force A400M and Army paratroopers.
This type of personnel release is a real asset in operation, and complements the A400M’s existing capability to drop paratroopers and equipment through its rear ramp. An essential component of power projection, paradrops allow the concentration of forces and equipment as close as possible to a target, without having to land in hostile areas. The A400M Atlas is already capable of dropping 25 tonnes, distributed over 10 pallets, in a single pass, its operational capabilities enabling it to transport a significant volume of equipment over long distances and on short notice.
The new type of personnel release is based on the use of a fuselage side door and the automatic opening of the parachute. In this mode of action, a strap connected to the aircraft hold allows the parachute to deploy automatically under the effect of gravity, once the paratrooper has left the aircraft. This employment clearance allows the release of 30 paratroopers through a side door of the A400M Atlas. It represents an important step in the continuous ramp-up of the A400M Atlas’ paradropping capabilities. The simultaneous drop from both side doors is expected to be authorized next year.
The Airbus A400M Atlas is a European, four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. It was 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, between the C-130 and the Boeing C-17; it can carry heavier loads than the C-130 and is able to use rough landing strips. Along with the transport role, the A400M can perform aerial refuelling and medical evacuation when fitted with appropriate equipment. The first Airbus A400M Atlas aircraft was delivered to the French Air Force in August 2013.