On July 22, 2020, the French Armaments Directorate (DGA) and Airbus Helicopters carried out the first refueling test flight with fuel transfer between an A400M Atlas transport aircraft and a Caracal helicopter.
Until then, only "dry" in-flight contact tests had been carried out, in order to assess the aerodynamic behavior of the aircraft and to check the feasibility of the contacts between the helicopter's refueling probe and the basket on the end of the A400M’s refueling hose.
This time, the test campaign, carried out from July 20 to 31, 2020 with an Airbus A400M and a Caracal from the EH 1/67 “Pyrenees” helicopter squadron of Cazaux made available by the French Air Force, aimed to transfer fuel between the two aircraft in order to assess the flight envelope and refueling performance.
On the Caracal side, this campaign will open up the operational capability for refueling by A400M, in addition to the Air Force’s KC-130J Hercules. The A400M is already certified for refueling fighter jets like the Rafale or transport aircraft like the C-130 or even another A400M.
This campaign prepares for the addition of helicopter refueling capacity, scheduled to be operational by 2021. It is one of the last remaining capabilities requiring qualification as part of the final aircraft standard, expected in 2022.
The DGA Flight Tests center of expertise supervised these tests, in compliance with specific health measures. The A400M and the Caracal were operated by mixed DGA / Airbus crews.