A400M Refueled by an A330MRTT: Shaping an Air Support Task Force?


2014-07-16 Recently, the A400M was refueled by the mulit-mission tanker, the A330MRTT for the first time.

According to a press release issued by Airbus Space and Defence on July 16, 2014:

Airbus Defence and Space has performed the first air-to-air refuelling of the Airbus A400M new generation airlifter from the A330 MRTT Multi Role Transport Tanker.

In the course of four flights, by day and night, in southern Spain, the A400M received more than 80 tons of fuel in 100 “wet contacts” from a Royal Air Force Voyager version of the A330 MRTT using the tanker´s Fuselage Refuelling Unit.

The trials follow dry contacts conducted in an earlier test-phase and support the A400M´s capability to conduct extremely long-range non-stop deployments.

A400M being refueled by A330MRTT tanker, July 2014. Wing of F-18 chase plane in foreground.Credit Airbus Military
A400M being refueled by A330MRTT tanker, July 2014. Wing of F-18 chase plane in foreground.Credit Airbus Military

The A330MRTT is entering service in several Air Forces and will provide for long-range support or higher endurance operations. Notably, the refuelable tanker version can allow the tanker to stay on station for a very long time if needed to do so.

TheA400M in a fleet paired with the new tanker will provide a unique capability as well.

Earlier we noted:

To gain a sense of how the A400M would be used in the future with the Mali operation in mind, Airbus Military’s Damien Allard, the Market Development Manager for the A400M, has put together a briefing, which he recently presented at the 2013 Trade Media Brief.

At the heart of the approach is the capability of the aircraft to carry C-17 type loads with C-130 type agility.  The A400m combines an ability to carry outsize and heavy loads that cannot fit into current tactical airlifters and be able to deliver those loads on soft, short, and austere areas where current strategic airlifter cans not.

According to Airbus Military, the plane can deliver up to a 55,000-pound or 25 ton payload onto as short an airfield as a 750 meter or 2500 foot low grade airstrip.

The range of the aircraft will allow it to fly directly from France to do the resupply effort and land directly onto remote airfields, creating a very different type of transit link, one between the supply “warehouse” and the engaged force. The key is to deliver equipment to the point of need for the supply points, not necessarily located in the combat zone or country.  This allows reduction of transit time, and enhanced security of supply.

At the heart of the evolving concepts of expeditionary logistics is the concept of providing support integrated within combat forces, without having to stockpile equipment to support “forward” deployed forces. The notion of the “front” and “rear” is eroded by the expeditionary logistics concept.

The A400M fits right into this concept. The A400 M will bring the capability to the French forces of delivering heavy and outsize loads directly from France or from other airfields in the region to unpaved airstrips in Northern Mali such Tombouctou, Gao, or Tessalit.