A Royal Air Force (RAF) A400M Atlas and crew from RAF Brize Norton have recently participated in Exercise Ouranos in France in which they trained to land on unprepared and natural surfaces, further demonstrating the capabilities offered by the Atlas fleet. The Atlas aircraft and its crew underwent Natural Surface Operations Training at Amberieu in France on Exercise OURANOS, landing on unprepared surfaces. Natural Surface Operations are the capability for an aircraft to land on unprepared or natural surfaces other than that of regular asphalt or tarmac. The flight was crewed by members of LXX and 30 Squadron from RAF Brize Norton, the frontline flying squadrons for the Atlas, with qualified instructors in Natural Surface Operations from XXIV Squadron onboard.
“Exercise Ouranos has been an excellent opportunity for the Atlas Force. It has fostered relationships with the other nations and the exercise and will only serve to improve interoperability with these countries in the future. The exchange of knowledge with regard to Natural Surface Operations with the Atlas C1, and the opportunity to use the Tactical Landing Zone at Amberieu has been a crucial step in the development of this capability for the Atlas Force,” Squadron Leader Beard Detachment Commander said.
This multinational exercise saw RAF crews working alongside their French counterparts from the Armée de l’Air, learning new skills and ways of working together, continually improving interoperability with partner nations. It follows on from Armée de l’Air Atlas aircraft conducting reciprocal training on Pembrey Sands in Wales. Natural Surface Operations are a key capability of the Air Mobility fleet, vastly extending the variety of locations the aircraft can operate in without being restricted to prepared runways. The exercise was enabled by members of the RAF’s Tactical Air Traffic Control, who created a controlled airspace and Temporary Landing Zone on the unprepared strip.
The Airbus A400M Atlas is a European four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. It was designed by Airbus Military 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. There is no number given however the United Kingdom (UK) has already ordered 22 A400M aircraft with 20 having been delivered so far. The remaining two are expected this year.