Airbus A400M refueling certification 1 640A400M conducts helicopter refuelling certification

The Airbus A400M has successfully conducted a helicopter air-to-air refuelling certification campaign, completing the majority of its development and certification objectives. Airbus aims to achieve full certification later in 2021 with the conclusion of night operation trials.

The flight tests, involved operations with two Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace (AdlA, French Air and Space Force) EC725R2 Caracals . The campaign took place in day and night conditions over the west coast of France at between 1,000 ft and 10,000 ft and flight speeds as low as 105 knots. During those flights, a total of 81 wet contacts and transfers of 6.5 tonnes of fuel were achieved, which included simultaneous refuelling of two helicopters for the first time. The tests confirmed the positive results of the dry and wet contact operations conducted in 2019 and 2020.

Helicopter air-to-air refuelling is key for special forces operations, involving aircraft with different flight profiles and sharing a very limited common flight envelope, requiring close formation flying patterns at low altitudes and night time conditions. The AdlA operates the Caracal in the special forces role with EH01.067 Pyrénées from Cazaux air base. The long-range tactical transport EC725R2 (nowadays called the H225M) is one of the few helicopters in the world capable of in-flight refuelling, extending the standard 500 NM range by up to 10 hours flight time.

The A400M is certified to be quickly configured as a tanker aircraft. Carrying up to 50.8 tonnes of fuel, without compromising the cargo hold, two additional cargo hold tanks can be installed, for an additional 5.7 tonnes of fuel each. These separate tanks allow for the use of different types of fuel, enabling the A400M to cater for the needs of different types of receiver aircraft.

As a tanker, the A400M has already demonstrated its ability to refuel the Eurofighter, Rafale, Tornado and F/A-18 at their preferred speeds and altitudes, and is also able to refuel other large aircraft such as another A400M for buddy refuelling, and the Airbus C295M and Lockheed Martin Hercules.

Photo: Airbus Defence & Space

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