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RAF continues roll-out of A400M capabilities with first operational aerial refuelling

The view of the A400M receiver aircraft from the Voyager mission controller console. (Crown Copyright)

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is continuing the process of rolling out the capabilities of the Airbus A400M C1 Atlas, announcing on 11 August the first operational aerial refuelling of the airlifter.

For the milestone, an A400M received fuel from an Airbus Voyager KC3 tanker via the centreline hose reserved for large aircraft receivers. The airlifter was refuelled 900 n miles southwest of Ascension Island, extending its 4,100 n miles range to accommodate the remaining 2,600 n miles to Mount Pleasant Airfield on the Falkland Islands.

โ€œThe execution of long-range air-to-air refuelling by front-line crews is a major milestone for Atlas. The ability of this aircraft to operate at significant range from the UK, demonstrates our enhanced and resilient force sustainment capabilities,โ€ said Wing Commander Stuart Patton, Officer Commanding 30 Squadron.

Mission Systems Operator, Sergeant Juerschik, who was controlling the refuelling from the Voyager, said, โ€œThis is the first time the Atlas has been refuelled operationally and by any of the crew, which provided a new exciting opportunity. Whilst I have refuelled the Atlas in the simulator, it had no comparison to the operational pressures of being over the sea with more than 900 n miles to the nearest land. As a crew, we delivered more than 20 tonnes of fuel to the Atlas.โ€

The RAF has to date received 20 of its 22 A400Ms, with the last two scheduled to be handed over shortly. The medium-lift aircraft provides the service's mid-tier airlift capability, with its 37 tonnes payload capacity sitting in between the 22 tonnes of the Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules C4 and the 72 tonnes of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III.

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