First A400M in Seville for Upgrading

RMAF Airbus A400M Atlas M54-01. Airbus

SHAH ALAM: RMAF first Airbus A400M Atlas airlifter is now in Seville, Spain, being retrofitted with new capabilities. The new capabilities will allow the aircraft to perform tactical operations with the addition of self-protection systems and equipment for parachute drops, short-runway operation and the ability to refuel other aircraft and receiving fuel in flight.

RMAF deputy chief Lt Gen Ackbal Samad confirmed that the aircraft – M54-01 – left for Seville last week (second week of January) when met at Kuantan airbase at the Order of the Day parade on Jan. 24.

RMAF A400M M54-01 landing at Subang airport after performing a flypast on 2015 Merdeka Day

He said the cost of the modifications will be borne by Airbus Defense and Space. “We accepted delivery of the aircraft in 2015, in the 1.5 configuration as Airbus had agreed to upgrade the aircraft with the added capabilities at its own expense,” he says adding that the modification work would take at least six months.

Airbus DS A400M MSN-32/M54-02 taking off from the Seville airport on Dec 15 for a test flight.

Once completed – 01– will be delivered in the 2.5 configuration or tactical configuration as it is described by Airbus. Currently two French Air Force Atlases are undergoing the similar modifications at the A400M final assembly line in Seville. One was handed back to the air force earlier this month.

MSN36 or M54-03 undergoing manufacturing when Malaysian Defence visited the A400M FAL in late October, 2015

The fourth A400M for RMAF which will be delivered this March is expected to be fitted with the tactical configuration already. It is not known yet when the other two A400Ms already delivered to RMAF – 02 and 03 – will be flown back to Seville to undergo the modifications.

M54-03 accorded the traditional welcome as it taxi upon arrival into Subang airbase on June 13, 2016. Air Times picture

The delivery of the Atlas – 04 – is a significant milestone as it will be the last new aircraft to be delivered to RMAF until 2019 at least, as the service had not signed any new orders within the last two years and its not expected to sign for anything new in the next 12 months. 

And its must be noted that four Atlases are  only being delivered within the last 36 months as the delivery were delayed due to various problems affecting the program. The A400Ms were ordered in 2005. 

For the record, the last time RMAF ordered new aicraft was back in 2014. These are the five Pilatus PC-7 Mk II turbo-prop trainers delivered last year. 

M54-03 landing at Subang on Aug 8, 2016.

The two EC120Bs – to be delivered to the FTC 1 this year – do not count as they are leased aircraft, and do not belonged to the service.

And btw, Gong Xi Fa Chai to those celebrating. 

— Malaysian Defence

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14 Comments

  1. l posted about this (m54-01 back in spain) last week, but my comment was not approved.

    With LIMA a few weeks away hopefully we will hear some new plans, on the future of the airforce.

    Reply
    Yes I was in the midst of confirming it first

  2. From what i heard it is not just the upgrade to the 2.5 config, but also for a major retrofit to the troublesome turboprop engine gearboxes.

  3. I wonder why the RAF opted to buy 14 A400Ms considering they already have 8 C-17s and all their Hercs are the latest J and J-30 versions. I suppose they were cheaper than more C-17s.

    If Indonesia goes ahead with their buy it will probably come from the many that European operators are trying to sell off.

    Reply
    I think they bought the Js due to the delays in the A400M program. Indonesia will want to have at least 3 of the Atlas completed by IPTN so they will want to get new build airframes

  4. @am

    right now spain and germany are trying to sell off their a400m comitments, ie those they have promised to buy.

    @nihd
    the c-130h of tudm is not due for replacement up till 2030 at least. With each a400m costing usd400mil each (more than double the price of c-130j), l don’t think the government has any money to buy more a400m, although personally (yes not possible even in my own tudm 2022 plan) i would like to see at least an additional 2 for tudm.

  5. Nihd,

    Do we really need all the space the A400Ms provide? As it is, it’s common for our Charlies to fly with small loads or loads that don’t require a Charlie. Personally, I can’t see why there is a need for A400Ms in the first place. If the MAF had troop deployments all around the world to support or regularly takes parts in exercises held far away fine but it doesn’t. A better course of action, instead of buying A400Ms, may have been to subject all 15 Charlies to an upgrade and get additional CN-235s.

  6. AM says:
    January 30, 2017 at 4:51 pm
    I wonder why the RAF opted to buy 14 A400Ms considering they already have 8 C-17s

    Actually the reason the C-17s were initially leased was to cover for the delay in delivery of the A400M. The C-130J & J-30 were bought to replace their older C-130 aircraft.

    The RAF was so happy with the performance of the C-17 that they opted to purchase them at the end of their lease. The initial order of 4 was was gradually increased to the 8 in service now.

    As to a future replacement for the C-130s in service with the TUDM, what about the Embraer KC-390? It was designed to replace the C-130, as a faster jet-powered transport.

  7. @ Rokuth

    The Embraer KC-390 is a beautifully designed plane, and by the track record of the current embraer aircrafts, it should be a fairly trouble-free one. If something is bought just to have some offset benefits to the country, IMO this should be the one (with a bigger potential to replace thousands of C-130’s), not the A400M. Alas that descision is already water under the bridge.

    But looking at the current situation, getting a c-130 sized jet powered transporter as a supplement to a turboprop powered large airlifter would look a bit out of place isn’t it?

  8. So if the RAF always intended to have the latest C-130s and now is happy with the C-17, what is the future of the A400M in the RAF?

    It seems Airbus isn’t doing to well with the A380 and the A400M.

  9. I think we first should ask ourselves whether the RMAF’s or MAF’s operational requirements will change in the near future to the extent of actually requiring a A400Ms or another platform in the same weight/size category. Actually, the question which many have overlooked is whether the RMAF even specified a need for A400Ms or something with more lift and range compared to its C-130Hs or was it a political decision that came from the top.

    No doubt the A400M offers advantages over the C-130H and even the J. It can carry more and fly faster. Some, without really understanding what it means will call the A400M as ”force multiplier”. No doubt the A400M has great potential; like other programmes that also had cost overruns and delays; the A400M will turn out to be a success BUT do we actually have a need for it?

    For our specific requirements can the A400M actually do anything that can’t be done with C-130Hs? For that matter, are our C-130s busy or are they under utilised? When we ordered it, could the cash that was allocated for the A400M [plus the millions we’ve spent on the ground infrastructure] been better used for other areas that required funding? Areas that even now are still unfunded.

  10. @azlan

    As we already have the A400M, we need to develop strategies to fully utilise the now available capability, and to to fret about how much it has cost (as the money is already been spent). What we can plan is what we can do tomorrow, not what that has happened yesterday.

    Some of the things that we can develop to fully utilise the additional airlift capability
    – Rapid deployment of EC725 Cougars to anywhere in the world for CSAR.
    – Rapid deployment of CB90 boat+Paskal team
    – Rapid Reaction Company of the 10 Para Brigade. To be able to deploy anywhere in the world within 48 hours. With light vehicles like supacat 8×8, polaris DAGOR for mobility after deployed on the ground.
    – Deployment trainings to australia, new zealand, europe, USA of equipments that can fit the A400M like the Gempita, CB90 boat, EC725 helicopter etc.

  11. Mention of the ability looks great on OEM brochures but I’ve never really bought into the idea of airlifting IFVs as lifting even a single squadron of AV-8s will take several sorties; assuming all aircraft are available for the tasking and all are operational.

  12. Buying the atlas is a bad decision from the gov from military perspective of course but from economic perspective maybe its an offer that 2 good 2 turn down

  13. The deal from the onset was based 100 percent on national interest. It was intended to benefit the local industry and the requirement was not specified by the RMAF. The selection of the A400M also led to further delays in the C-130 upgrade. Granted, it’s water under the bridge [as ….. points out] but remains a prime example of what happens when political considerations overide other factors.

    I’ll be the first to concede that the A400M offers us the ability to do things not possible with the C-130 but the fact remains that the bulk of the roles we regularly perform, as well as the roles we’re likely to perform; can be done with the C-130. Given that the C-130 fleet is relatively young [based on air frame hours/structural life] and that our operational needs are unlikely to change significantly any time soon; I’ll be very surprise if there’s a requirement for more A400Ms. Even if the money was available.

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