Atlas Performs First Helicopter Air to Air Dry Contacts

A close up of the trials. DGA

SHAH ALAM: Airbus A400M Atlas performs first helicopter air-to-air dry contacts. The Airbus A400M Atlas new generation airlifter has successfully achieved its first helicopter air-to-air refueling contacts with an H225M, Airbus announced on Sept 24.

Over the course of 4 flights, operated in day conditions over the south of France, the A400M performed 51 dry contacts marking a decisive milestone towards its full capability as a tanker. These tests were performed under the coordination of the French “DGA Essais en vol” flight test centre.

An A400M performing dry contacts with an H225M operated by Airbus Helicopters. DGA picture

The tests, involving no fuel and performed between 1,000 ft and 10,000 ft at flight speeds as low as 105 knots, confirmed the positive results of previous proximity flights conducted at the beginning of 2019. The next step in the flight test program will involve wet contact operations scheduled to take place before the end of 2019 ahead of final certification in 2021.

An Airbus A400M peforming a dry contact with an H225M with an H160 performing proximity trials. DGA

The flight test campaign also included the first proximity trials between the A400M and an H160 helicopter requested by the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) in the frame of the feasibility study for the Guépard (future military multirole helicopter for the French armed forces). Tests were performed successfully.

A400M as a tanker

The A400M is certified to be quickly configured as a tanker, not requiring a dedicated aircraft version. The A400M carries up to 50.8 tonnes (111,600 lb) of fuel in its wings and centre wing box, without compromising any cargo hold area. Two additional cargo hold tanks can also be installed, providing an additional 5.7 tonnes (11,400 lb) of fuel each. The fuel carried in the extra tanks can be of a different nature to the fuel in the main tanks. This enables the A400M to cater for the needs of different types of receiver aircraft.

An H225M peforming a dry contact with an A400M with an H160 on proximity trials. DGA

As a tanker, the A400M has already demonstrated its ability to refuel fighter receivers such as Eurofighter, Rafale, Tornado or F/A-18 at their preferred speeds and altitudes, and is also able to refuel other large aircraft such as another A400M for buddy refueling, C295 or C-130.

A close up of the trials. DGA

Helicopter air-to-air refuelling is a military tactical operation that involves low speeds and low altitudes. After this achievement and its final certification the A400M will become one of the few tanker aircraft in the world capable of performing such an operation.
RMAF Atlas conducting air to air refueling with a Flanker. RMAF

As you are aware RMAF the only export customer of the Atlas has already certified the air to air refueling for its fast jet fleet including the Hawk Mk 208, F/A-18D and Sukhoi Su-30MKM.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam


  1. What is you guys opinion on this?

    1. Should we replace our c130h in the future wpith c130j or a400m?

    2. Do the rmaf need the small cn235 capability?

  2. @ nihd

    1. We could probably sustain the C-130H hercules for 20 more years. Remember Singapore still has 2 operational C-130B hercules that are 61 years old!!! OTOH i do think that we need at least 2 more A400M to have the flexibility of having at least 4 available at all times. A robust air bridge between east and west malaysia in a conflict scenario sould be a goal for the air force.

    2. Well TUDM CAP55 tells us that they do not need the cn235 capability. Why i think we should convert them to MPAs.

  3. @Nihd
    1. Both C-130 & A400M is needed as they both have different operational usage.

    2. Not necessary but if they needed haul a lighter payload around, CN235 is more economical than C-130.

  4. Nihd,

    Logic dictates that not all taskings will require a C-130 or A400M. If the load is say just a single pallet or a mercy flight; obviously it will be more cost effective to use a CN, assuming one was available.

    In the larger scheme of things to cut down on operational costs and reduce the number of types operated; the RMAF might decide that the CNs can go (CAP55, which of course is not written in stone, doesn’t include them). Things however may change.

    Will be expensive to use a C-130 or A400M for everything. On paper -,assuming they’re no issues we’re unaware of – the CNs can be configured for MPA (enough internal volume as well as range and endurance for our needs). The RMAF might be willing but the government might not however.

    Whether we replace our C-130s with an an all A400M fleet is a question of whether we can afford to do so and whether this is an ideal solution in our scheme of things. Not every tasking will require the internal volume the A400M offers and the A400M is more expensive to maintain compared to the C-130 due to all the computers/systems installed.
    Of course the RMAF never really has a requirement for the A400M in the first place.

    The A400M cost a lot more to operate compared to the Hercules

  5. Off topic

    Spain is selling 10 C-130H (including 5 with air refuelling capability) for USD150 million. They are selling as they ordered too many A400M. They are also trying to sell of quite a number of their ordered A400M. They ordered 27 but only going to use only 14 of the A400M, so the extra 13 is for sale. If not mistaken germany also has 13 extra A400M for sale.

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