UK, Romania Trial Atlas A400M Aircraft Load and Transport Capabilities

The UK Royal Air Force and the Romanian Army evaluated the load and transport capabilities of an Atlas A400M aircraft at Mihail Kogălniceanu Airbase on the Black Sea coast.

During the trial, the aircraft carried a high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) operated by Romania’s 8th Tactical Operational Missile Brigade.

The demonstration ended with the A400M firing a simulated missile strike and a final reload in-flight before returning to base.

According to the Royal Air Force, the test assessed the UK’s future military transport fleet capability to rapidly load and transport US weapon systems such as HIMARS in service with NATO allies.

“The greatest challenge is the initial assessment of any unfamiliar vehicle,” a statement from the Air Portability Section of the Trials Management Office Test and Evaluation Unit said.

“Then we can ascertain whether the vehicle physically fits, isn’t going to strike any part of the aircraft as it’s loaded, isn’t going to overload the floor capacity or aircraft compartment and can be restrained sufficiently for flight.”

Two missiles fired by M142 HIMARS
Two missiles fired by M142 HIMARS. Photo: AFP

The trial was led by the RAF Brize Norton-based LXX Squadron.

Experts from US Special Operations Command Europe also participated as advisors for the test.

“Working with any allied forces, always presents subtle differences in the way they work. It can be something as simple as the marshalling signals they use,” a Royal Air Force flight sergeant explained.

“In this case the US vehicle crew train to load and restrain the vehicle in conjunction with the aircraft loadmaster. We, however, have a designated movements team to conduct the load.”

Preparing UK’s Future A400M Fleet

In 2021, the UK Ministry of Defense procured a medium-weight aerial delivery system for the Atlas A400M to enhance its equipment and vehicle airdrop capabilities.

The British Army also tested the plane for parachuting activities in preparation for global response operations.

This month, the military transport aircraft conducted its first air-landed arming and refueling with Merlin Mk4 choppers of the UK Royal Marines.

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