PersonnelThe A400M can also carry 116 personnel, or paratroops. Because of the width of the A400M’s fuselage, they can be seated in four rows, all along the two sides of the fuselage, and back to back along the centre-line, with enough space in between the facing rows.
High Speed / High Altitude Thanks to its state of the art technologies, including its four unique Europrop International (EPI) TP 400 turboprops, the A400M has the capability to fly distances 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, very similar to that of a turbofan powered airlifter. It can even fly up to 40,000 ft for special operations.
This gives the potential for strategic/logistic missions. Flying faster and higher, 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 of found at medium altitudes, resulting in less fatigue for the crews, and passengers or troops alike.
The A400M provides a new standard of performance for tactical airlifters, and offers global reach at high speed, whilst still retaining the capability of landing at austere airfields.With a typical payload of 20 tonnes (44 000 lb) allowing to airlift a Cat II MRAP, 20 troops and two pallets over an operating range of 3450 nm (6400 km), the A400M provides a true strategic range capability.
With its maximum payload of 37 tonnes (81 600 lb) allowing to airlift an heavy mobile crane, four personnels and three military pallets, the A400M has an operating range of 1780 nm (3300 km).
Short Unpaved Airstrip Performance Thanks to its unique short landing characteristics, the A400M is 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.
The A400M is therefore able to land on, and take-off from, any short, soft and rough unprepared CBR 6 airstrip, no longer than 750 m / 2,500 ft, while delivering up to 25 tonnes / 55,000 lb of payload, and with enough fuel on board for a 930 km / 500 nm return trip. In addition to offering optimised support to deployed military operating bases, these characteristics also allow it to ensure that swift humanitarian aid can be deployed direct to a disaster region.
Autonomous Ground Operations
Once on the ground, the A400M is designed for very rapid and autonomous cargo loading or unloading without any specialized ground support equipment. Fitted with on-board 32-tonne capable powered winch and an (optional) five tonne / 11,000 lb capable crane to load directly from ground level, the cargo hold is optimised for single loadmaster operation from a computerised workstation, where the loadmaster can pre-plan loading from a loads data base. Furthermore, the A400M’s landing gear can “kneel” down in order to reduce the angle of the ramp facilitate the off- and on-loading of material. This allows loading and unloading without ground assistance at the most remote and austere strips, minimising vulnerable time on the ground. This reduces the aircraft’s vulnerability to hostile action, hence increasing its survivability. The A400M can also conduct cross-loading with other strategic transports without the need to reconfigure loads in ‘hub and spoke’ operations.
The A400M can also easily and swiftly be adapted to become a Tanker, if required in a military operation.
Air-to-Air Refuelling can be done either through two wing mounted hose and drogue under-wing refuelling pods or through a centre-line fuselage refuelling unit (FRU). Its built-in air-to-air refuelling capability allows it to be rapidly re-configured to become a tanker. With hard points, fuel lines and electrical connections already built into the wings, it takes under two hours to convert the A400M from an airlifter into a two-point tanker aircraft.
The two hose and drogue under-wing refuelling pods can provide a fuel flow of up to 400 US gal / 1,500 litres per minute to receiver aircraft. Refuelling can also be done through a centre-line Hose and Drum Unit (HDU) which provides a higher fuel flow of some 600 US gal / 2,250 litres per minute. Three video cameras can also be installed, to monitor the refuelling from the wing pods and the centre-line unit.
The A400M is the only Tanker which can refuel the entire range of probe-equipped military aircraft at their preferred speeds and altitudes. This is because it can fly both at the low speeds and low altitudes typically used to refuel helicopters (roughly 110 knots and 5000 feet)(, as well as at higher speeds and altitudes of about 290 knots kt and altitudes around 25,000 ft which are typically used for refuelling of fast jets, such as fighters or large aircraft (such as the C295, C-130 Hercules, Eurofighter, F/A-18 Hornet or Rafale,) or even another A400M for buddy refuelling. To do so, the A400M receiver is equipped with a refuelling probe mounted above the cockpit. This increases the range and enduration of the A400M. The probe can easily be removed when it is not needed.
The A400M excels in the airdrop role, being able to drop from both high and low altitudes, (as high as 40,000 ft for special forces’ operations, and as low as 15ft for low level load deliveries). With the new A400M, which can carry more paratroopers than other Western-built military transport, Airbus Military is setting new standards in paradropping operations.
The A400M can accommodate up to 116 fully equipped paratroopers, carrying them to the drop zone at speeds up to 300kt, but dropping them at as little as 110kt to ensure minimum dispersion. Crucially, two streams of paratroopers can jump simultaneously from the ramp or the two side doors to further cut jumping time and scatter. Careful aerodynamic design reduces turbulence behind the aircraft and deployable baffles at the door exits protect jumpers from the airflow. The aircraft is also fitted with a winch, allowing any ´hung-up´ static-line paratrooper to be safely retrieved.The type’s low speed characteristics make the A400M ideal for dropping supplies from low altitude. The A400M can assure a very rapid and direct response to any occurrence, making it the ideal tactical airlifter. The A400M can airdrop up to 25 tonnes / 55 100 lb of containers or pallets through gravty and parachute extraction.The Computed Air Release Point (CARP) linked to the Automated Release System, automatically computes the release point for optimum delivery accuracy, including corrections for wind effects.
The A400M is equipped with eight stretchers as standard which are permanently stored on board, but it can accommodate as many as 66 standard NATO stretchers and 25 medical personnel seated on troop seats. It has the range, speed, operating altitude and comfort to optimally serve the medevac role.
The A400M has been specifically designed for low detectability, low vulnerability and high survivability. Its high manoeuvrability, its enhanced low level flight capability, its steep descent and climb performance, as well as its short landing and take-off performance, its damage tolerant flight controls, its armoured cockpit and bullet-resistant windscreens, the use of inerting gas in the fuel tanks as well as the segregated routing of hydraulics and wiring give it excellent self-protection and survivability. With its minimal infra-red signature EPI TP 400 turboprops, highly responsive fly-by-wire flight controls, four independent control computers, comprehensive defensive aids, and damage tolerant controls, the A400M is hard to find, hard to hit and hard to kill.
One of the key elements of the A400M´s versatility is its all-new, specifically designed three-shaft turboprop engine with eight bladed propellers. The 11,000 shp TP400- developed by Europrop International (EPI), a consortium comprising Rolls Royce, Snecma, MTU and ITP, is the most powerful turboprop in production. It allows a wide range of speeds and flight levels and offers extremely efficient fuel consumption. Powered by four of these turboprops, the A400M can cruise at altitudes as high as 37,000 ft at speeds up to Mach 0.72. This will permit the aircraft to fly above adverse medium level weather conditions and to be integrated into the commercial aircraft airspace. At the other end of the speed / range envelope, the A400M will be capable of flying at 110 kt and 5,000 ft to refuel helicopters, or even lower to drop equipment and supplies.
The down between the engines counter-rotation of the propellers, which turn in opposite directions, allows a structural weight reduction. The arrangement preserves the symmetry of the aircraft when the four engines are operating, and reduces the adverse yaw in case of an engine failure, allowing in turn a reduction in the size of the tail fin by 17 per cent, hence reducing weight and drag. Another consequence has been the possibility to improve by four per cent the lift at low speed and thus to simplify the slats and, as a result, reduce by eight per cent the surface of the horizontal stabilizer. Furthermore, it also reduces the level of vibrations and therefore the noise inside the aircraft.
The A400M features two Head-up-Dispays (HUD) which provide the pilots with all primary flight information together with Flight Director orders and flight guidance during critical mission phases, such as landing at unequipped airfields, in-flight refuelling or low-level flight.The A400M cockpit also features eight large interchangeable liquid crystal head-down displays. Six of these – three for each pilot – feature primary flight displays, navigation displays, management or video, while two are for the systems monitoring. These Flight Management System (FMS) screens are controlled through alpha-numeric keyboards for simpler entering of data. The optional Enhanced Vision System (EVS) based on Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) technology generates a sensor based image of the environment in front of the aircraft in low visibility conditions. The EVS image is displayed on the HUD to provide the pilots with additional visual cues.
Another key feature of the A400M is its computerized “fly-by-wire” flight controls already widely used on other state of the art civil transport aircraft. Replacing the conventional cables and pulleys by electrical wires linked to four independent flight control computers which send signals to actuators, not only reduces weight, but also maintenance time. This also gives a much greater precision to the commands. Furthermore, when in normal flight law, fly-by-wire controls permit the implementation of “flight envelope protection” which, by preventing the aircraft from stalling, allows the pilot to achieve optimum performance in a critical escape manoeuvre by simply pulling full stick back. The fly-by-wire system then manages the whole aircraft configuration accordingly.The fly-by-wire flight envelope protection is a great contributor to the survivability of the aircraft in a hostile environment, enabling the aircraft to achieve extreme escape manoeuvres.Thanks to fly-by-wire, the cumbersome central control column can be replaced by light and easy to handle side-stick-controllers, providing the pilots with a free view to the large TV-like screens in front of them, while also allowing for a foldable table to be pulled out as needed.
In order to reduce weight, 30 per cent of the A400M’s structure is made of composites. These parts include most of the wing, with, for the first time in history, composite main spars. Also, nearly the entire tail (the horizontal and vertical stabilizers and the control surfaces), the rear cargo door, the sponsons (undercarriage bays) and the propeller blades (with Kevlar shell) are made of composite. The wing’s 19 m / 62 ft skin panels are the largest ever produced. The extensive use of composite material enables the A400M to be much lighter, enabling to enhance its performance both in terms of range and payload.
Extensive use of advanced 3D computational fluid dynamics tools optimised the wing shape, resulting in a low drag design and thus a high speed cruise of Mach 0.72, without compromising low speed performance and handling.The A400M designers have also taken into account all the aerodynamic refinements that allow it to fly more smoothly and more efficiently. But they have also considered some very specific military needs. For example, the sponsons have been shaped to reduce air turbulence aft of the ramp in such a way that paratroopers can jump simultaneously through the two dedicated side doors or through the ramp, without them running the risk of colliding with each other because of the air-flow behind the aircraft. This reduces the time to exit the aircraft by half and allows the paratroopers to reach the ground closer together and hence regroup more easily and be operational faster.
The A400M has been designed to be the most reliable airlifter ever. By using proven Airbus commercial design concepts and tools, its availability benefits from high component reliability. Its new maintenance concept, which is largely inspired from commercial civil airliner experience, will translate into a very high dispatch reliability of 98.7 per cent at entry into service. This will dramatically reduce life cycle costs. Over twelve years of operation, the mandatory heavy maintenance “down-time” will only require the A400M to be on the ground for only 84 days in total.
Thanks to its superior performance and capabilities, a fleet of eight A400Ms offers the same productivity (measured in tonnes per nm each year) as a fleet of eighteen previous generation tactical airlifters.The Life Cycle Cost of these eighteen previous generation tactical airlifters is 55% higher than the one of the eight A400M fleet and they are unable to transport outsize loads such as helicopters or armoured vehicles including Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, which can be transported by the A400M.