A RAF Atlas C1 (A400M) transport aircraft has been refuelled in the air for the first time. In trials conducted recently by RAF Brize Norton based 206 Squadron, the large transport aircraft received fuel from a Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker. Both Atlas (A400M), which provides tactical airlift and strategic airlift, and the dual role transport and tanker Voyager, recently played pivotal roles in the evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan. 206 Squadron are based at RAF Brize Norton, their tasks include testing and evaluating UK Defence heavy aircraft, including the Hercules and Atlas.
“This is the very first air-to-air refuelling on this platform in the UK. We have undertaken simulation training to make sure we were familiar with how the aircraft would perform. Air-air refuelling enables the aircraft to reach further, fly for longer and lift more weight around the world more effectively,” said Flight Lieutenant Crow Flight Test Engineer 206 Squadron.
“Our test pilots have conducted previous flight test campaigns; however, this is the first with this platform in the UK. The A400M is unique, thanks to its fly-by-wire flight control system. This makes it much easier to maintain formation to make contact and take fuel. This trial has given us the capability to hand over to front line instructors by the end of the year which will enable them to roll out to the remaining A400M Squadrons, 24, 30, and 70 Squadrons at RAF Brize Norton,” said Wing Commander Woolven Officer Commanding 206 Squadron.
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 sized between the C-130 and the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III; 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 refueling and medical evacuation when fitted with appropriate equipment.