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UK continues to open up A400M tactical capabilities, with low-level paradrop now cleared

A paratrooper exits one of the two side doors of the A400M during a demonstration of the aircraft's low-level parachuting capabilities. (Crown Copyright)

The United Kingdom continues to open up the tactical capabilities of the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) Airbus A400M Atlas C1 fleet, with the announcement on 14 April that the airlifter is now cleared for low-level parachuting.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that the clearance had been awarded after trials in the US in 2023 were followed by a capability demonstration by the Air and Space Warfare Centre in March.

β€œIn a series of day and night sorties, paratroopers were dropped simultaneously from both side exit doors over Everleigh Drop Zone on Salisbury Plain [in southern England],” the MoD said, adding, β€œ24 Squadron and the Airborne Delivery Wing will now train their instructor cadre, aircrew, and despatchers before the broader airborne force.”

As noted in the announcement, the capability demonstration involved the RAF, the British Army, Defence Equipment and Support, and Airbus.

The RAF has received all of its 22 A400Ms, with the medium-lift aircraft set to provide the service's tactical fixed-wing airlift capability following the recent retirement of the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules. This capability transition is set to be fully complete in 2025. The A400M's 37 tonne payload capacity compares with the 72 tonnes of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III that performs the strategic role.

As with its other fixed-wing transport and tanker aircraft, the UK's A400M fleet is located at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. The service operates two units for the type in 70 and 30 squadrons, while 206 Squadron continues to roll out the aircraft's capabilities with 24 Squadron training crews. An A400M is also assigned to No 1312 Flight in the Falkland Islands.

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