Airbus’ military airlift aircraft the A400M has successfully conducted a campaign to certify it for air-to-air refuelling of helicopters.
The flight tests were conducted in association with the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) and were carried out using two French Air Force H225M helicopters.
The campaign included day and night time flights at altitudes ranging from from 1000 to 10,000ft. During the flights the A400M flew at speeds as low as 105kts to prove its stability at low speed.
During the tests a total of 81 “wet” contacts were made with 6.5 tonnes of fuel being transferred.
Airbus says that helicopter air-to-air refuelling is a key factor in mission planning and a key capability for special forces missions which require extended close formation operations.
Certification is expected later this year and will make the A400M one of a handful of aircraft that can refuel helicopters in the air and combined with he capabilities of the H225 helicopter can extend helicopter operations by up to 10hrs endurance.
As standard, the A400M can be quickly transferred from an airlifter to a tanker and can carry over 50 tonnes of fuel without compromising its cargo space. Additional tanks can add an additional 5.7 tonnes of fuel.