First A400M in Seville for Upgrading

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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