First A400M operational mission flown into Africa


An A400M operated by the French Air Force (Armee De L’Air) has become the first of type to perform an operational flight delivering 22 tons of supplies in support of France’s Operation Serval in Mali.

The new generation airlifter, the second to be taken into service by the French Air force, flew out of Orleans air base in December 29 on a close to seven hour mission that also involved taking French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Mali as well as Chad and Niger Flight International reports.

The mission was flown by the second A400M to be delivered to the European nation’s air force and was “carefully planned in order to overcome all eventualities” according to mission commander, identified only as Lieutenant Colonel Creuset.

This included using a newly installed full mission simulator at the Orleans air force base.

The A400M’s maximum usable payload capacity of 32t is double that of the Dassault-Breguet C160 Transalls which France’s A400M fleet will replace. Speaking last month at SMi’s Military Airlift conference in Seville, Spain, the French air force’s joint force component commander for the Serval campaign said the new aircraft would have made a significant difference during the early days of the mission, which was launched a year ago.

One mission, to drop French army paratroops near Timbuktu, was performed using six Transalls operating from Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. The same task could have been completed using only two A400Ms, flying unrefuelled from and returning to Orléans, said Brigadier General Philippe Montocchio. The air force expects its new airlifter to achieve full operational capability later this year.

Airbus Military delivered only two of its expected four A400Ms last year. Turkey has been in protracted talks about accepting the first of 10 aircraft since late in the third quarter, while France requested its third “Atlas” be held back until early 2014. The airframes are likely to be added to a previous plan to deliver 10 of the aircraft this year, including the first on order for Germany and the United Kingdom.