Air Drop Multi-Formation Flying: A400M in Formation Flight


2012-11-17 Earlier this year, Airbus Military demonstrated the capability of the A400M to operate in a multi-formation flight.

According to The Aviationist:

A unique formation, including all five of the programme’s flight test A400M next-generation airlifters, was flown by the Airbus Flight Test teams on Jun. 7, in Toulouse, France.

After the special formation flight, which did not include any particular maneuver or test, each aircraft returned to its individual activity: MSN1 performed handling quality evaluation; MSN2, wing pod hose stability tests; MSN3, engine tests; MSN4, pressurization and oxygen tests; and MSN6, function and reliability tests.

The stability in flight of the aircraft is significant and will be a key aspect of the aircraft with its maneuverability as well.

The practical impact of such multi-formation flying could well prove significant in terms of capability to insert force or support into an area of interest.

This was demonstrated during a 2007 exercise in the United States involving C-130s.

Planes and parachutes packed the blue skies over Maxwell AFB and nearby Autaugaville Nov. 3 during an 908th Airlift Wing airdrop training exercise dubbed “Bama Big Drop.” 

The Alabama Army National Guard also assisted with CH-47 Chinook helicopters. B Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment “sling-lifted” cargo from the Autaugaville drop zone back to Maxwell. Additionally, the helicopter aircrews provided a simulated slice of combat life to Regular Air Force and Reserve Airmen, taking them on brief tactical troop transport orientation flights near the Maxwell AFB flightline. Priority was given to first responders and emergency personnel, while selected Air University staff, Reserve Airmen performing their weekend training assembly and Airmen assigned to Maxwell were treated to flights on a space available basis.

Four 908th AW C-130 Hercules airlifters practiced tactical formation flying and airdrops first at the 908th’s Buzz drop zone near Autaugaville and then at Dixie drop zone here at Maxwell. The Autaugaville airdrops featured heavy equipment platforms configured to simulate the dropping of equipment needed in a war zone such as road graders, Hum Vees, armored personnel carriers, etc. At Maxwell, the aircrews dropped containerized delivery systems, three bundles consisting of water-filled barrels weighing about 1,000 pounds each to approximate the weight of actual cargo. The CDS is the most commonly used method for airdropping supplies quickly for military and contingency operations.

“Bama Big Drop” activities allowed the wing’s Reservists to get concentrated training that increases their proficiency and at the same time helps them accomplish their individual training requirements, said Lt. Col. James Dignan, director of operations for the 357th Airlift Squadron, the 908th’s flying arm.

Unit aircrews train continually; normally, in two-ship formations. Four-ship formations are a rarity that allows the aircrews “to put mass on target in a simulated combat environment,” the director of operations said.

“Multi-ship formation flying results in more realistic training and wartime planning. Although that also means additional mission planning and coordination, it’s worth the increased workload,” Colonel Dignan said.

The A400M can operate in similar terrain as the C-130 with a much larger payload and has greater range.