The Luxembourg Armed Forces have taken delivery of its Airbus A400M Atlas military transport aircraft, which was accepted at the A400M Final Assembly Line in Seville (Spain) and has performed a ferry flight. The aircraft, known as MSN104, will be operated by the Luxembourg Armed Forces and Belgium within a binational unit, together with the seven A400M ordered by Belgium, which is due to receive its first aircraft in the coming weeks. In mid-June 2001, Belgium and Luxembourg signed a bilateral agreement between to jointly acquire seven Airbus A400M military transport aircraft for Belgium and one for Luxembourg. The delivery of the eight multi-purpose aircraft to the Allies will be completed in 2023.
When Luxembourg will take delivery of their first military transport aircraft, the Belgium-Luxembourg Binational Air Transport Unit A400M (BNU A400M) will take shape. From Melsbroek Air Base in Brussels, the 15Wing/20 Squadron will operate and support the Belgian-Luxembourg unit composed for the A400M aircraft. Luxembourg currently contributes with four pilots and two loadmasters to the binational crews and one staff officer stationed at the Belgian Air Component Headquarters. Building upon the Belgian experience in operating the C-130 Hercules legacy fleet and with the arrival of the Luxembourg aircraft at the BNU A400M, the current transition to the A400M comes as a great opportunity.
Under the operational control of the European Air Transport Command (EATC), the BNU A400M conducts missions on behalf of Belgium and Luxembourg and for the six EATC member nations as well as for the 30 NATO Allies and the European Union member states under the Movement Coordination Centre Europe. The first military transport aircraft owned and operated by Luxembourg is a great increase in the Ally’s military capabilities. Luxembourg contributes to NATO among others by having the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force aircraft registered to its flag. It is also a member of the Multinational MRTT Unit with a Main Operating Base at Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and a Forward Operating Base at Cologne, Germany.
The Airbus A400M Atlas is a European four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. The aircraft recently achieved additional capabilities such as simultaneous paratrooper dispatch for a maximum of 116 paratroopers using the side doors, automatic low level flight in visual meteorological conditions, and aerial delivery and combat off-load that allows a single 16-tonne load to be dropped automatically via parachute extraction. In addition, 25 tonnes can be gravity dropped and the manual combat offload of up to 19 tonnes on pallets or 25 tonnes on an unpaved runway is possible. With regards to helicopter air-to-air refuelling operations, the A400M recently achieved the first successful wet contacts with a H225M helicopter.