The A400M (formerly known as the Future Large Aircraft) is a military transport with a classic high-set wing and T-tail configuration, rear loading ramp/door assembly, four turboprop engines, and high-flotation retractable landing gear housed in blister fairings.
The aircraft was designed to meet the requirements of the air forces of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The Airbus Military Company, a subsidiary of Airbus Industrie, is responsible for management of the A400M program.
A European Staff Requirement (ESR) was drawn up in 1993 together with a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the governments of seven nations. Development of the aircraft is scheduled to start in 2001, with entry into service in 2006. In July 2000, the participating nations agreed to procure to following amounts: Belgium (7), France (50), Germany (73), Italy (16), Spain (27), Turkey (26), and the UK (25).
To fully meet the ESR and yet remain affordable, the A400M uniquely combines the latest military and commercial aircraft technologies where appropriate:
- Advanced turboprop engines
- Advanced composite propellers
- Advanced section wing
- Double-slotted flaps
- Carbon fiber primary structure
- Proven fly-by-wire controls
- Flight envelope protection
- Robust landing gear (high sink rate, high flotation, kneeling)
- Low maintenance costs
- High commercial levels of reliability
- Two-pilot cockpit (head up displays, extra crew position, loadmaster station)
The aircraft will provide high logistic mission efficiency whilst meeting the demands of tactical operations. It will be capable of operating on unprepared landing strips under adverse weather conditions, completely independent of ground support. It will have an in-flight refueling capability and will also be equipped for rapid conversion into an aerial tanker with the addition of under-wing hose and drogue refueling pods. It will also have excellent low speed handling characteristics needed for air dropping of troops and cargo.
The cockpit is fully night-vision compatible and provides accommodation for two pilots and an additional crew member for special mission equipment operation. The flightdeck is fitted with five multi-function displays and two head-up displays. Two sidestick controllers are installed to allow the pilot an unrestricted view of the electronic flight displays. The throttle controls are placed centrally between the two pilot stations.
The aircraft's independent navigation system comprises an Inertial Reference System (IRS) integrated with a Global Positioning System (GPS). The weather and navigation radar is to be the Northrop Grumman AN/APN-241E which incorporates windshear measurement and ground mapping capability. The radio navigation suite includes a pair of instrument landing systems, VHF omnidirectional radio ranging (VOR), radio distance measuring equipment (DME), air traffic control (ATC) transponders, automatic direction finders (ADF) and a tactical air navigation unit (TACAN).
The cargo hold is 75 feet (22.9m) long, including the ramp, 13 feet (4.0m) wide at floor level and 12 feet, 7 inches (3.85m) high, making it perfectly suitable for the transport of bulky cargo like helicopters, heavy vehicles, missile batteries and light vehicles placed side-by-side. The modern cargo handling system allows rapid reconfiguration without the need for outside assistance. A single loadmaster is able to reconfigure the cargo compartment for different roles either in-flight or on the ground. A powered crane installed in the ceiling area of the rear section of the fuselage has a 5-tonne capacity for loading from the ground and for cross-loading. The rear opening door has full compartment cross-section to allow axial load movement, roll-on/roll-off loading, and for the airdrop of large loads.
The A400M is equipped with four high-speed turboprops providing 9000 shaft horsepower. The engines fulfill the need for the maximum takeoff weight, operations from short unpaved runways, good low speed flight characteristics and high cruise speed requirements. Two engines are being proposed to meet the A400M requirements; the BR715 turboprop engine by Rolls-Royce of the UK and the M138 developed by SNECMA of France, MTU of Germany and Fiat Avio of Italy.
The eight-bladed constant speed propellers are supplied by Dowty Aerospace of the UK or by Ratier-Figeac SA of France with Hamilton Standard of the United States. The propellers are fully reversing with the capability to back the fully-loaded aircraft up a 2% slope.
The defensive aids suite could include a radar warner, missile launch and approach warner, and chaff and flare decoy dispensers. The aircraft can also accommodate armor plating crew protection, bullet-proof windscreens, engine exhaust treatment for infrared emission reduction, and inert gas explosion and fire retardation in the fuel systems. The wings will have hardpoints for the installation of electronic warfare pods.
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