Last Tuesday, April 29th 2019, the final assembly of the first Belgian-Luxembourg A400M started at the AIRBUS assembly plant in Seville. In total, eight machines will replace the nine C-130s still in operation at the 15th Wing in Melsbroek (Brussels).
On the occasion of the setup of the wings onto the fuselage, on April 30th, 2019 a Belgian-Luxembourg delegation led by the Belgian Minister of Defence Didier Reynders has travelled from Brussels to the manufacturer’s facilities in Spain. After an uneventful flight onboard the Belgian Air Force A321, the delegations arrived in Sevilla, already starting at the A400M interesting lineup.
Along with the official delegations, AIRBUS management was also onsite to meet and greet.
We were honored to welcome Luxemburg 🇱🇺 & Belgium 🇧🇪 delegation at our FAL in Sevilla 🇪🇸 discovering the production of the most advanced, proven & certified airlifter of the 21st century.
The 2 countries ordered 8 #A400M (7 🇧🇪+1 🇱🇺) and will receive the 1st in 2020. #WeMakeItFly pic.twitter.com/VPAd2cK7H2
— Airbus Defence (@AirbusDefence) May 2, 2019
The A400M was launched in 2003 to meet the combined needs of seven European nations grouped within the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom), with Malaysia joining the programme in 2005. This explains the extreme versatility of the aircraft which made its first flight on 11 December 2009. The first A400M was delivered to the French AF on August 1, 2013.
- Crew : 3
- Length: 45,1 m
- Wingspan: 42,4 m
- Cruise speed: 780 km/h
- Cruise altitude: 8800 m
- Range (with 20 t) : 6400 km
- Weight (empty): 69000 Kg
- Maximum weight: 141000 kg.
(Source: Ministère des Armées)
The external width of its fuselage (5.64 metres) is similar to that of the widebody A330 / A340. The dimensions of its cargo hold, four metres wide and four metres high, and a length of almost 18 metres allow it to carry many loads with outsized dimensions, such as a helicopter NH90 or CH47 Chinook, or two Stryker infantry transport vehicles (ICVs) for military use of 17 tonnes each. It can also carry a 25-tonne semi-trailer vehicle carrying a six-metre container, or a lifeboat, or high-capacity lifting equipment such as excavators or mobile cranes needed for rescue missions on the scene such as natural disasters.
In addition, its unique landing performance makes the A400M the only transport aircraft capable of delivering these materials directly to the scene. Equipped with a 12-wheel main landing gear designed to operate on unprepared, rocky or sandy tracks, an impact damping system that is effective in the aeronautical structure, and with improved damage resistance caused by foreign objects, the A400M is able to land and take off from any type of runway, including short, loose and unmanaged runways meeting the CBR4 standard.
Equipped with a 32-tonne motorised winch and an optional 5-tonne crane, the handling of the loading or unloading is carried out by a single operator (Loadmaster) from a computer workstation, from which he can plan loads from a database.
The A400M can cover distances up to 4,700 nm / 8,700 km, and fly at a cruising altitude of 11,300 metres / 37,000 feet and a speed up to Mach 0.72, very close to that of a jet plane. It is, therefore, able to carry out strategic and logistical missions.
Able to fly quickly at high altitude, the A400M is also the ideal air to air refueller for fighter planes and other wide-body aircraft: it can refuel at speeds and altitudes suitable for military planes equipped with probes. Refuelling can be done by two under-wing pods or a refuelling unit installed in the fuselage. With its integrated equipment, it can be very quickly converted into a tanker aircraft. The A400M, which can itself be refuelled, is the only aircraft to offer such a level of adaptability.
The A400M was specifically designed for paratroop dropping at both high and low altitudes (from 12,000 metres / 40,000 feet for Special Forces operations to about four metres / 15 feet for low-level cargo drops). It can carry 116 fully equipped paratroopers, likely to jump two by two from the ramp or side jump doors.
Mr Nico Petersen, Head of A400M Industrial Production took the stage to warmly welcome the delegations and the guests, with a stunning A400M in the background, displaying the Luxembourg and Belgium flags.
Then Mr. Michael Menking, Programme Manager A400M took the stage: “The A400M MSN 104 (serial number), the 104th model of this aircraft will be delivered in 2020. It will be followed by 2 others in 2020, 3 in 2021, 1 in 2022 and the last in 2023. In the forthcoming years, this assembly plant will be very busy with this shared Luxembourg/Belgium fleet. And we are very proud of that”.
Lux/Bel are since the beginning engaged in the A400M programme as launch customers. This aircraft is outstanding with its performance, a speed of Mach 0.72 – 0.73, a high cargo capacity and a high range along with high tactical capabilities. In recent months, it has shown real capacity in the field of humanitarian missions. For example, the earthquake in Indonesia.
It’s a real European programme at the cutting edge of technology. It is mainly built by the European industry and I must also highlight the 5 Belgian companies that participate in the programme.”
Today, out of a total of 174 machines in order, 77 are already in service in six countries (Germany, Spain, France, UK, Turkey and Malaysia). The fuselages are produced in Bremen, Germany, the front tips come from France and the wings are manufactured in the Filton plant in the UK. Through five companies (Asco, Esterline, SABCA, SONACA and Safran Aero Boosters) Belgium represents 4.5% of the total. It should be noted that six European engines manufacturers are in charge of the TP400 engine (Europrop International – EPI), including Safran Aero Booster which supplies the lubrication units. With 40 years experience and some twenty references to its credit, Safran Aero Boosters has developed cutting-edge expertise in this equipment. The company currently holds a 75% market share for medium-haul aircraft engine lubrication units. They are mounted directly onto the engine’s accessory gearbox and they are crucial for correct propulsion. The equipment pressurizes the oil from the oil tank and distributes it around the engine parts requiring lubrication before cooling and filtering it prior to returning it to the tank.
En date du 30 avril 2019 une délégation belgo-luxembourgeoise s'est rendue à Séville en Espagne afin de visiter l'usine de montage d'Airbus dans le cadre du lancement de l'assemblage final de l'avion #A400M luxembourgeois. @BelgiumDefence https://t.co/Znbkh72rMe pic.twitter.com/905N8fXkGP
— Lëtzebuerger Arméi (@ArmyLuxembourg) April 30, 2019
The Luxembourg general, Defence coordinator, Gilles Feith and General Alain Duschène, Chief of Staff of the Luxembourg Army also took the stage.
Bilateral cooperation with Luxembourg was highlighted by the Belgian Minister for Defence Didier Reynders and by the Luxembourg representatives present during the visit.
Cheerful Luxembourg and Belgian Delegations with AIRBUS officials posing for the ‘Momentum’, namely from left to right :
- Nico Petersen, Head of A400M Industrial Production,
- Jorge Caro, Secretary General Airbus Defence Spain,
- Didier Reynders, Belgian Minister of Defence,
- General Gilles Feith, Luxembourg Defence coordinator,
- Michael Menking, Programme Manager A400M,
- General Alain Duschène, Chief of Staff of the Luxembourg Army,
- Vice Admiral Michel Hofman, Belgian Navy.
The Luxembourg general Defence coordinator, Gilles Feith and General Alain Duschène, Chief of Staff of the Luxembourg Army with Belgian Minister of Defence Didier Reynders, posing in front of Spanish A400M (reg. A4M097) under finalisation.
A400M cn104 : Up close view while manufacturing process has kicked off
We were fortunate to see the cn104 ‘up close’, which is quite impressive.
Luxembourg Airbus A400M MSN104 Fuselage arrival in Seville Assembly Plant and Assembly (ST40) (Source and Credit © Airbus and Space).
A400M Assembly Plant Tour
Thereafter, delegations and guests enjoyed a detailed tour, stage by stage (except Armament for obvious security reasons), of the assembly plant, hosted by Airbus. For example, the different stages of the assembly then the testing of the instrument (although aircraft on the ground but aircraft gets the illusion to be airborne), the propellers phase; to up-close visit of a finalised German A400M.
Aviation24.be and the authors would like to express their gratitude and thank the Belgian Defence for making this visit possible. We also would like to thank AIRBUS and their onsite staff for their welcome, the detailed insights, tour and additional material provided.
Other useful links :
- Communiqué Gouvernement du Grand Duché de Luxembourg : “Visite à Séville dans le cadre du lancement de l’assemblage final de l’avion A400M.”
- La Défense (Belge) : “Le Special Operations Regiment rencontre un nouveau Géant Aérien.”
- Defensie (Belg) : “Special Operations Regiment maakt kennis met nieuwe Lutchreus.”