As more and more Airbus A400Ms join the Spanish Air Force (Ejército del Aire) fleet of aircraft, this military service is working to expand the capabilities of its next-generation airlifter while further increasing mission diversity. The A400M is a “big jump” for the military service according to Colonel Melecio Hernández, Commander, Wing 31 of the Spanish Air Force. “It means that we will be able to reach farther destinations; provide support to our air force, our deployments and the rest of the air forces; and we will better serve our nation in our international commitments,” he explained.
Spanish Air Force A400Ms are used for logistics missions, supporting operations in Africa, the Middle East and Italy. In addition, they have been deployed as part of NATO training exercises. “For sure, the A400M is a great platform, but we have to improve our capabilities,” added Hernández. This includes planned outfitting for medical evacuation (medevac) missions, as well as air-to-air refuelling of the Spanish Air Force’s Eurofighter combat aircraft – with more capability campaigns set to follow. In total, the Spanish Air Force has ordered 27 A400Ms from Airbus – of which eight have been delivered to date.
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 A400M’s maiden flight, originally planned for 2008, took place on 11 December 2009 from Seville, Spain. Between 2009 and 2010, the A400M faced cancellation as a result of development programme delays and cost overruns; however, the customer nations chose to maintain their support for the project. A total of 174 aircraft had been ordered by eight nations by July 2011. In March 2013, the A400M received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification. The first aircraft was delivered to the French Air Force in August 2013. The A400M is positioned as an intermediate size and range between the Lockheed C-130 and the Boeing C-17, carrying cargo too large or too heavy for the C-130 while able to use rough landing strips.