WUNSTORF, Germany / AL-ASRAK, Jordan --- Another new capability for the Luftwaffe: The A400M is now being tested abroad as a tanker aircraft. Its task: As part of Operation Counter Daesh, it is to refuel German and Allied aircraft in the air. The Luftwaffe’s Air Transport Squadron 62 has been working for a year to achieve this goal.
The Commander of Air Transport Wing (LTG) 62, Colonel Ludger Bette, has approved the first contingent of an Airbus A400M refueling version. "They approach this mission with LTG 62's own team spirit. I wish the team all the best, broken neck and broken legs and that you all come back home healthy," Bette told the 21 soldiers of the LTG 62 as they headed to Jordan, where they will replace an Airbus A310 in the refueling mission in Jordan.
Since August 2018, the certification of the A400M as refueling aircraft in the AAR (Air-to-Air-Refueling) version has been in progress. Air transport squadron (LTG) 62 from Wunstorf is the only Bundeswehr unit equipped with modern transport aircraft. At present, there are 30 A400Ms "on deck" in Wunstorf. In future, they will take over the transport missions of the C-160 Transall.
In addition to the flight preparedness of the Ministry of Defense with its three A310 multi-role transport tanker (MRTT) aircraft, the A400M aircraft are now an indispensable part of the strategic personnel and material transport capability of the German Armed Forces. So far, the use as MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) underlines the multi-role capability of the A400M.
The task migration is progressing and the role as tanker for German and Allied aircraft is also being taken over by the A400M. Currently, German Tornados, German and Spanish Eurofighters have been technically cleared for refueling from the A400M.
Additional user approvals, such as the Italian and British forces, are expected soon. The Luftwaffe is a pioneer, as Germany is the first A400M user nation to provide this capability.
All in all, the squadron will have ten sets of equipment available for retrofitting as tanker aircraft. This allows the A400M to be used flexibly. As a tanker aircraft, the Airbus can then refuel two aircraft at the same time. In total, around 40 tonnes of kerosene can be delivered, and up to ten aircraft can be refueled in one hour.
After numerous national and international certification flights, further refueling flights under operating conditions are on the agenda for the coming weeks.
The crews from Wunstorf now have the necessary procedures to carry out refueling missions under operating conditions. As part of the anti-IS Counter Daesh operation, the soldiers are deployed together with the task force.
Implementation will be parallel to flight operations with the A310 MRTT, also located at Jordan's Al-Asrak air base. Valuable experiences can be directly exchanged and used to further optimize this ability.
A machine for operating conditions
This "baptism of fire" is the final milestone for the operational readiness of the A400M as a tanker. Thanks to its ballistic protection, the A400M can also fly directly into operational areas such as Mali and Afghanistan and operate there.
The Luftwaffe Inspector General, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, agrees: "Today we are taking a giant step. With the deployment of the A400M to Jordan as a tanker, we are the first nation to deploy this aircraft. "
The adopted A400M AAR with the registration 54 + 10 started on time for Jordan and its first use as a refueling aircraft. At around 9:20 pm local time, it safely landed at the destination of Al-Asrak. At 30 degrees Celsius and a starry night in the desert, the landing lights of the A400M first fumbled out of the darkness towards the runway.
Joy about the task
One minute later, the machine touched Jordanian soil - Touch Down in ideal weather and some wind from the west. "The flight was quiet - of course emotional too, with the knowledge that with 21 soldiers and servicemen of my unit we are making the visible start for another important milestone in the capabilities of the A400M," said the pilot and commander of the mission after landing. "We are pleased to be able to apply in action the training we have had in recent months."
In the next two weeks, a lot of work will be done by the LTG 62 team. The test as a refueling aircraft in action - a real premiere that will use the German contingent Counter Daesh / Capacity Building Iraq to gain valuable experience in operations of the A400M AAR.