Operation Ruman was the operational debut of the RAF A400M Atlas in a major humanitarian airlift. (MoD)
“Working side-by-side on the hurricane relief was the first time I've heard a C-130 special forces support pilot turn around and say: "It's actually quite good at this, isn't it?" That was a mark of respect.” This, the words of Wg Cdr Gareth Burdett, OC XXIV Sqn (who was also in charge of the air mobility wing deployed for Operation Ruman, the UK’s Caribbean assistance mission), is a tribute to the RAF A400M’s operational debut in a major international humanitarian mission in September of last year.
The UK humanitarian relief effort, in the wake of the damage and destruction left by Hurricane Irma as it swept through the Caribbean, saw Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines and RAF personnel scrambled a short notice to deliver urgent aid and assistance. As well as HMS Ocean and RFA Mounts Bay, the relief effort also included RAF Puma helicopters, C-17s, a C-130 and two A400Ms to deliver much needed food, water and essential aid to UK Dependencies and other islands in the Caribbean that had been affected by one of the worst storms in history.
Though the first Airbus A400M for the RAF was delivered in November 2014, Operation Ruman was the first operational debut for the UK A400M fleet and a significant milestone for a force that is still growing with a mix of 24/70 Sqn aircrew swinging into action.
The RAF now has 18 A400Ms in service, pooled between the OCU XXIV Sqn (24 Sqn), LXX Sqn (70 Sqn) and, 206(R) (responsible for trials and evaluation testing). Four more aircraft are set to be delivered between now and 2019 to take the whole force to 22 aircraft and another ex-C-130 squadron, 30 Sqn, is set to reform in 2018 as the second front-line A400M unit.
The OC of the RAF A400M’s front-line operational unit, 70 (LXX) Sqn, Wg Cdr Ed Horne said: “It's worth stressing that the Atlas force of 70 Sqn and 24 Sqn, and our engineering colleagues, are still in growth and still a relatively immature organisation. It's not something that we held a standby commitment for, or anything like that. So, to get two aircraft out the door in such a short timeframe, for over 4,000 miles away, really playing to the aircraft's strengths in terms of its reach and its range, was a fantastic achievement.” (end of excerpt)
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