Turkey received its first military transport airplane this week, the new A-400M, a state of the art all purpose transporter from Airbus Military. The transporter will offer European air forces added autonomy. Most Western military were dependent on the U.S. for long range transport until the A-400M.
A “versatile airlifter” the A-400M performs three very different types of missions: it is able to perform both tactical missions directly to the point of need and long range strategic/logistic ones. And it can also serve as an air-to-air refueling “tanker.” Four unique counter-rotating Europrop International (EPI) TP400 turboprops power the A400M. It offers a wide flight envelope in terms of both speed and altitude. And it can be used to help in humanitarian operations.
The transport plane was launched in 2003 to respond to the combined needs of seven European Nations regrouped within OCCAR (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Spain, Turkey and the UK), with Malaysia joining in 2005. This is one of the major reasons for its extreme versatility. Its maiden flight took place on December 11, 2009.
It has a maximum payload of up to 37 tons (81, 600 lb) and a volume of 340 m3 (12, 000 ft3). The A400M can carry numerous pieces of outsized cargo including, vehicles and helicopters that are too large or too heavy for previous generation tactical airlifters, for example, the NH90 or CH-47 Chinook helicopter, or two heavy armored vehicles. It can also carry a heavy logistic truck, a rescue boat, or large lifting devices, such as excavators or mobile cranes needed to assist in disaster relief, besides the ability to carry 116 troops with all their gear.
The four unique Europrop International (EPI) TP 400 turboprops allow the plane to fly distances of up to 4,700 nm / 8,700 km, at a cruising altitude up to 37,000 ft, and at a speed of up to Mach 0.72. If need be, it can fly up to 40,000 ft for special operations.
Its capability to fly faster and higher means it can respond more rapidly to crises, because greater distances can be flown in a one crew duty day. The A400M is hence much more efficient than its predecessors. Also, as it can fly higher, it can cruise above poor weather and turbulence found at medium altitudes, resulting in less fatigue for the crews, and passengers or troops alike.
Its unique short landing characteristics make the A400M the only large airlifter that can fly equipment and personnel directly to the site of action, where these materials are urgently needed. In addition to its Europrop EPI TP400 Turboprops, which are less sensitive to ingestions than jet engines, the A400M is fitted with a twelve-wheel main landing gear and an efficient absorption of shock-loads into the airframe structure for operations from stone, gravel or sand strips, and is designed to minimize risk of foreign object damage.
This allows the A-400M to land and take off from any short unprepared airstrip no more than 750 meters, or 2500 feet, with a payload of about 25 tons.
Airbus Military has received orders for 172 planes, each costing US$181.5 million. Two planes have been delivered to date. Turkey’s was the second.