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Airbus Group A400M Atlas Long Range Transport / In-Flight Refueler (2013)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 2/21/2014

As of 2013, the Airbus A400M Atlas is entering operational-level service with French military forces.

The Airbus A400M "Atlas" is billed as long-range military transport and represents a multi-national development effort. To date the program has been beset by technical delays and cost overruns that have seen initial orders curtailed (or cancelled outright), no doubt due to a downturn in the global economy. The A400M represents the first attempt by Airbus at a high-wing, "T-tail" aircraft and makes use of carbon-fiber composites throughout her construction as a weight savings measure. The A400Ms primary competition remains the ubiquitous (though aging) medium-lift American Lockheed C-130J "Super Hercules" and heavy-lift Boeing C-17 "Globemaster III" series transports though the Airbus product will be marketed to fill the gap between the two aircraft types. Lockheed claims its 1996-era C-130J can accomplish up to 95 percent of what Airbus claims for its newer A400M. At this stage in its development, the A400M is in something of dire straights with Airbus not expecting the program to become profitable unless it receives substantial sales from outside of the NATO fold. At least 2.4 billion Euros are expected to be lost to the program and a European bailout on November 5th, 2010 pumped 3.5 billion more Euros into the fledgling aircraft while orders from key buyers were slightly reduced.

The A400M Atlas (formerly known as the "Grizzly") is designed to meet the aerial transport needs of the modern military. It incorporates the latest in aviation technologies and construction practices to produce a robust and reliable performer tasked with heavy duty hauling of men and machine across vast distances. Performance capabilities are such that the Atlas can operate from soft or rough airfields while at low speeds and can fulfill the dual roles of military service and humanitarian efforts (including MEDEVAC) thanks to its oversized cargo hold.

Origins of the A400M can be traced back to a December 1982 project begun by Aerospatiale, British Aerospace, Lockheed and MBB. The consortium effort came together to seek a suitable next generation replacement for the venerable C-130 Hercules and Transall C-160 series of transport aircraft under the project designation of "Future International Military Airlifter" - or FIMA. By this time, the Hercules had gone on to become one of the most successful military transport aircraft of all time and the Transall C-160 mimicked some of its stellar qualities though mostly for interested European parties. However, the C-130 was born in the 1950s with the C-160 following in the 1960s - as such, both designs were becoming "long in the tooth" so to speak. As with most previous joint American-Euro efforts, the new project fell to naught as conflicting requirements and government finagling slowed development to a snail's pace. For whatever reason, Lockheed was forced out of the FIMA group and went on to pursue its own modernized C-130 in the C-130J "Super Hercules" to compete with the Euro product. FIMA continued in their efforts and eventually added Alenia of Italy and CASA of Spain to make for a truly European design endeavor. FIMA was then renamed to "EUROFLAG" for "EUROpean Future Large Aircraft Group" with the target aircraft expected to become operational sometime in 2000.

Around this time, design studies were undertaken to test out the feasibility of various proposed engine types. Initially, a turbofan engine was entertained over that of a turboprop arrangement though the decision was made in 1994 to head down the turboprop route with a complete feasibility study being finalized in 1995. That same year, Airbus Military officially took over the reins of the program from EUROFLAG and the aircraft design was formally handed the designation of "A400M". Final assembly direction was served to EADS out of Seville, Spain. In 2000, a group formed from Rolls-Royce, SNECMA, MTU, FiatAvio, ITP and Techspace (as the Aero Propulsion Alliance) was charged with developing the aircraft's all-new TP400 turoprop engines. The EUROFLAG group was now formally made up of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. A procurement agreement for 212 aircraft was signed in May 2003. South Africa joined on April 28th, 2005 but went on to drop out of contention due to growing concerns about development costs. Italy also eventually withdrew from the A400M program.

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Specifications for the
Airbus Group A400M Atlas
Long Range Transport / In-Flight Refueler

Focus Model: Airbus Group A400M Atlas
Country of Origin: France
Manufacturer: Airbus Military / Airbus Group - France
Initial Year of Service: 2013
Production: 174

Crew: 3 or 4

Length: 147.97ft (45.1m)
Width: 139.11ft (42.40m)
Height: 48.23ft (14.70m)
Weight (Empty): 154,324lbs (70,000kg)
Weight (MTOW): 310,852lbs (141,000kg)

Powerplant: 4 x Europrop TP400-D6 turboprop engines delivering 11,060 horsepower each.

Maximum Speed: 485mph (780kmh; 421kts)
Maximum Range: 5,412miles (8,710km)
Service Ceiling: 37,073ft (11,300m; 7.0miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet per minute (0m/min)

Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:

A440M "Atlas" - Base Series Production Designation; to be available in basic transport and aerial refueler variants.

Belgium; France; Germany; Luxembourg; Malaysia; Spain; Turkey; United Kingdom