The A400M is an advanced military turboprop airlifter, fully equipped as an air-to-air refueller. It can perform three very different types of duties: it is able to perform both tactical missions directly to the point of need and long range strategic/logistic ones. And it can also serve as an air-to-air refuelling “tanker”. Powered by four unique counter-rotating Europrop International (EPI) TP400 turboprop powerplants, the A400M offers a wide flight envelope in terms of both speed and altitude. It is the ideal airlifter to fulfil the most varied requirements of any nation around the globe in terms of military, humanitarian and any other “civic” mission for the benefit of society.
The A400M has a classic high wing configuration, fuselage with ramp and large rear door, high flotation retractable landing gear and "T" tail. Its four turboprops provide it with a cruise speed of 0.72 mach at altitudes of up to 40,000 feet. Its cabin is 22.65 m long, including the ramp, 4 m wide at floor level and 3.85 m high, making it suitable for the transport of bulky cargo like helicopters, heavy vehicles, missile batteries and light vehicles placed side by side.
In June 1999 the M138 engine won in Airbus Industrie's downselect on engines to power its emerging A400M military transport. The M138 is jointly developed and manufactured by Snecma (France), MTU München (Germany), FiatAvio (Italy) and ITP (Spain). The M138's core is identical to that of Snecma's M88, which powers the French Rafale combat aircraft. The M138 also incorporates technologies matured under the Advanced Ducted Propfan (ADP) demonstrator project.
In May 2003 Airbus Military announced that the engine selected to power the A400M will be the TP400-D6, to be developed and manufactured by EPI (EuroProp International), a European consortium. The chosen engine, offered in response to a second RFP (Request for Proposal) issued by Airbus Military in April 2002, is an entirely new design in the ten thousand horsepower category, based on proven technology and incorporating three-shaft civil aero engine architecture. The TP400-D6 fully meets the required specification.
The choice of the TP400-D6 was the result of an exhaustive evaluation of two separate engine proposals submitted by Pratt & Whitney Canada and EPI. EPI is a European joint venture company consisting of Rolls-Royce, Snecma Moteurs, MTU Aero Engines and Industria de Turbopropulsores (ITP), brought together to manage the programme. The TP400-D6 is the most powerful turbo-prop engine ever produced in the western world and, combined with the aircraft's aerodynamic qualities, would make the A400M the world's fastest new-generation turbo-prop aircraft.
The A400M offers longer range, higher payload and capacity, faster cruise speed, and improved levels of tactical performance compared to the aircraft it will replace. Through the use of proven advanced technology developed by Airbus Industrie and its partner companies, the A400M would also bring commercial levels of reliability and cost-effectiveness to military airlift operations.
The A400M has been rigorously designed to meet the equipment transport needs of modern armed forces. The A400M can perform missions which previously required two - or more - different types of aircraft, and which even then provided an imperfect solution. Its fuselage external width of 5.64 meters / 18 ft 6 in is equal to that of the A330/A340 wide-body. Its cargo hold has an inside usable width of four meters / 13ft, height of up to four meters / 13ft, and usable length of 17.71 meters / 58 ft.
With a maximum payload of up to 37 tonnes (81 600 lb) and a volume of 340 m3 (12 000 ft3), the A400M can carry numerous pieces of outsize cargo including, vehicles and helicopters that are too large or too heavy for previous generation tactical airlifters, for example, an NH90 or a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, or two heavy armoured vehicles for military purposes. It can also carry a heavy logistic truck, or a rescue boat, or large lifting devices, such as excavators or mobile cranes needed to assist in disaster relief.
The 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The A400M has been specifically designed for low detectability, low vulnerability and high survivability. Its high manuverability, 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 armored 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.
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