The A400M successfully completed refueling simulations with an H225M Caracal

Among the most problematic failures for France concerning the tactical capabilities of the European A400M military transport aircraft, the refueling of medium helicopters was the one that appeared the most complex to resolve. Indeed, the wake turbulence generated by the 4 immense TP400 D-6 turboprops and their 8-blade Ratier propellers prevented medium helicopters, such as the H225M Caracal or the NH90 TTH, from maintaining a stabilized flight sufficiently precise to initiate a procedure. in-flight overhaul. Several solutions were then considered, including extending the refueling pipe, in order to allow helicopters to pass “under” this turbulence, and no longer suffer its consequences.

It seems that it is this option which allowed the engineers of Airbus Defense & Space and the DGA to solve the problem, since, through a press release, Airbus DS announced that it had succeeded, during 4 test flights , 51 dry refueling simulations with an H225M Caracal maneuvering helicopter, used in particular by the Air Force for its rescue missions. The press release indicates that stability evaluations would also have been carried out with one of the prototypes of the H160, the future light helicopter of the 3 French armies. This announcement comes just 2 months after the successful drop of 50 paratroopers through the side door, which seems to open the way towards a simultaneous double-drop via the 2 side doors of around a hundred paratroopers, one of the last operational objectives not achieved to date. Airbus DS estimates that final simultaneous double-drop qualification will take place in 2020, for full operational capability by 2021.

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Like the NH90, the A400M program has experienced multiple setbacks and twists and turns, due to (too) a large number of decision-makers at the negotiating table. The specifications and expectations of each person generated a device which, to achieve such a degree of versatility, had to go through a very long period of technological maturation and know-how. In addition, the first copies encountered significant availability and reliability problems, which fueled the distrust of some people regarding the device. But, like the NH90, the A400M ultimately proves to be at the level of its customers' expectations. With 174 aircraft ordered to date, and nearly 100 aircraft delivered, the Atlas will have enabled numerous air forces to have an aircraft with the versatility of a tactical transport aircraft, and the performance of a combat aircraft. strategic transport, making it a unique device on the market.

4 European countries, also shareholders of Airbus, form the hard core of A400M users. Germany ordered 53 examples, France 50, Spain 27 and the United Kingdom 22, the latter also having 10 C17 Globemasters. Together, these 152 aircraft, to which are added 7 examples ordered by Belgium and 1 by Luxembourg, offer a strategic transport and force projection capacity to European countries which until now were an American exclusivity.

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