A400M CT01 Arrival at Melsbroek 15th Wing
Authors: Benoit Denet & Martin Gillet, reporting from Melsbroek Air Base.
October 9th 2020, the press was invited for the arrival of the brand new aircraft CT-01, namely the Airbus A400M Atlas. You certainly recall the ‘birth of the aircraft’ witnessed during our tour of the Seville manufacturing plant. April 29th 2019, we witnessed the final assembly of the first Belgian-Luxembourg A400M.
Used with permission of © Credit Aviation Graphic https://www.aviationgraphic.com/ (*)
The Airbus A400M registered CT-01 (MSN 104) was presented on October 8th in Luxembourg and on October 9th at Melsbroek AFB (EBMB) (adjacent to Brussels airport, EBBR). Military authorities of both countries along with local Belgian authorities and guests were able to visit welcome this new aircraft and have a 1:1 tour.
It is the first military aircraft owned by Luxembourg since 1968 (Aviation24 note: Which was at the time a Piper PA-18 Super Cub). It reinforces the military cooperation between the two countries. The contract is totalising a purchase, acquisition of eight aircraft. The initial contract was signed in 2001. It was at the same ceremony that eight European countries had placed a total order for 196 transport aircraft and that a Memorandum of Understanding (referred to as MoU) was issued. It was the largest cooperative military purchase in Europe. In-between, Portugal has withdrawn from the programme.
The contract was intended to replace an ageing fleet featuring, for example, C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall aircraft in European Air Forces. Originally the first A400M aircraft was scheduled for delivery in 2018 for the Belgian-Luxembourg unit. Unfortunately delays in the programme altered the initial delivery planning. The last of the eight aircraft should be delivered towards the end of 2023. Luxembourg will provide three crews (which is featuring 6 pilots and 6 loadmasters). The eight A400Ms will be used without distinction of nationality within the 20th squadron of the 15th Wing, they are all part of the same pool.
The second A400M is expected for delivery in mid-November 2020(**) and the withdrawal of the last C-130 Hercules should take place towards the end of 2021 after fifty years of service. (**) COVID Health and Safety regulations are likely to delay delivery.
“Welcome to Homebase CT-01”
After a warm welcome in their Home country in Luxembourg, A400M Atlas registered CT-01 made its journey onto its base: Melsbroek Military Airport (EBMB). CT-01 will be attached to the 15th Wing.
It was not ‘a normal routine direct flight’ as Luxembourg Armed Forces and Belgian Defence wanted to share this momentum with all their citizens. A Welcome tour was set up in order to provide spotting opportunities to all. Despite poor weather conditions, plenty of spotting reports have been seen online for the greatest pleasure of all.
On its way to Melsbroek Military Airport (EBMB), it was escorted by two F-16’s belonging to the Belgian Air Component while touring Belgium. Did you spot the A400M? Share your best pictures in the comment section!
When such a beauty becomes a member of the family, it is hard to resist taking a closer look. So that is what we did.
Yesterday, we commissioned this breathtaking @AirbusDefence airlifter. The first #A400M in a #BELUX fleet of eight aircraft in total. pic.twitter.com/Bw7n29LlZT
— Belgian Air Force?? (@BeAirForce) October 10, 2020
De nieuwe A400M boven ons land.
Ons land koopt er 7, Luxemburg 1. Sneller, groter, groter bereik.
Straks meer via @vrtnws (Beelden via @BeAirForce) pic.twitter.com/SFijBO9LiW
— Jens Franssen (@JensFranssen) October 9, 2020
A little bit before 11:00 Local Time, the A400M made a stunning appearance from the low clouds for a flyby. Low approach and humidity made the momentum every more stunning.
The A400M CT-01 landed on runway 25R, then headed to the apron. A400M CT-01 made a stunning entrance until it was stopped to the final parking location. Fire Department gave ‘the usual’ Water Salute that lasted for a couple of minutes.
Aircraft and Crew were greeted onsite by Ludivine Dedonder, Belgian Minister of Defence, Major General Aviator Thierry Dupont, Commander of the Air Component, Belgian Defence representatives and local authorities, namely Kurt Ryon, Mayor of the city of Steenokkerzeel.
Excerpt from Ludivine Dedonder, Belgian Minister of Defence‘s speech: “I am pleased to be with you for the arrival of this Airbus A400M. This aircraft is the result of a European military capabilities development project aimed at creating a modern aircraft capable of replacing the C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall.
This project was kicked off in 1982 with the creation of the Future International Military Airlifter group (referred to a FIMA), which brought together some of the jewels of the European aeronautics industry. It was an adventure involving eight countries: France, Spain, Great Britain, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg. Nearly 30 years later, a new era in air transport capacity opened up with the inaugural flight of the A400M on December 11th 2009 in Seville. And its first operational deployment by the French Air Force in 2013 in Mali.
Herewith I would like to highlight the European successes that prefigured a future Europe of Defence to which I am committed. I would also like to highlight the Belgian-Luxembourg partnership with the joint acquisition and operation of the A400M. This agreement with Luxembourg contributes to the development of this European Defence in the same way as the partnership with France for the land component and with our Dutch neighbours for the Navy.
Luxembourg is a privileged partner of our country in the field of Defence and I would like to point out the excellent military cooperation that unites us. Our cooperation is intense and diverse, ranging from training to operations, from capability development to equipment procurement. The event that brings us together today is a very concrete example. It is since 2001 that we have been committed to the acquisition of 8 A400M transport aircraft, 7 of which are for Belgium, and one for Luxembourg.
Defence is about to enter a new era of modernity. This new tactical and strategic transport capability is a response to this ambition. These aircraft will replace our C-130 Hercules by the end of 2021. They will support, with the help of our Luxembourg friends, our military operations as well as our crisis management and humanitarian aid missions.
On the initiative of my Luxembourg counterpart, Mr François Bausch, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, a bilateral agreement and a treaty between our two countries for the operation of a bi-national A400M transport unit will underpin this partnership.
To conclude as the new Minister of Defence, I must talk about the future and one of my priorities for this legislature. I have already mentioned it, the modernisation of our Defence. I would like our defence to be more concerned in the future with cybersecurity, innovation, research and technology. The changeover to the digital age will, as we know, have considerable effects on our society at all levels. In order to protect our country, its people and its businesses, our military must absolutely modernise. This will be one of the priorities of my mandate, and I have no doubt, Minister Bausch, that within this framework, new common opportunities and positive projects will emerge for our two countries”.
Then Major General Aviator Thierry Dupont, Commander of the Air Component took the stage. Excerpt of the speech delivered: “Today marks the beginning of a new era in military transport with the arrival of the Airbus A400M. With this aircraft, the Air Component will have an unprecedented tactical and strategic military transport capability that far exceeds the C-130.
The aircraft can carry a 37-tonnes payload, almost twice as a C-130, operate more than 3,000 kilometres to remote airports as well as operating on short and hostile runways.
Let’s not go into this adventure alone. With the co-signing in 2001 of a cooperation agreement between Luxembourg and Belgium. This is a far-reaching and historic collaboration. Our two countries have undertaken the acquisition of 8 A400M aircraft, including this one, the Charlie-Tango – 01, whose arrival we are celebrating today.
The Belgian Air Component will ensure the implementation; logistic support, joint crew training as well as future modifications. We will base the bi-national fleet here in Melsbroek with a major infrastructure programme. The new maintenance complex is growing by the day and this is only the beginning of important work for the entire base (Aviation24: Laying of the foundation stone for new Airbus A400M hangar by former Minister of Defence Philippe Goffin took place on August 24th 2020).
It will still be some time before the unit moves into the new buildings. With the arrival of three Luxembourg crews, we can speak of synergy and this unit will play a role within the European Air Transport Command (also referred to as EATC). The entry into service of this new state-of-the-art aircraft will lead to a wave of modernisation, investments and renewals and will thus contribute to strengthening our Defence.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in this capability development project, many of whom I recognise in this room. Building on Belgium’s experience in operating the C-130 Hercules fleet and with the arrival of the Luxembourg aircraft in the bi-national transport unit, the transition to the A400M is a major opportunity, both for our two countries and for our Defences, and first and foremost for our personnel.
The future is bright and begins today“.
Due to COVID measures, authorities speeches were held with a limited number of guests and the tour of the aircraft was divided into small groups where guests could enjoy a walkthrough of the impressive cargo bay and flight deck.
We reached out to D. G., Belgian Air Component Test Pilot of the A400M who confirmed to us that the aircraft was what was expected today in the ‘state-of-the-art’ aviation of today’s challenging requirements. Compared to a C-130, the A400M can fly further and hold more cargo. Also, a very interesting feature is the Air to Air refuelling capability, allowing to take off with minimum fuel level, get airborne safely and refuel mid-air.
(*) Kudos to Aviation Graphic for their impressive artwork. Their gallery can be found at https://www.aviationgraphic.com/
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