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RAF A400M makes flying visit

written by australianaviation.com.au | December 14, 2015
A400M RAF ZM406 CNS 12DEC2015 2 Andrew Belczacki
The A400M and a QantasLink Q400 cross paths at Cairns. (Andrew Belczacki)

A Royal Air Force Airbus A400M Atlas has made a flying visit to Australia.

A400M ZM406 arrived in Cairns from Bander Seri Begawan on December 10 and then flew to Hobart via Sydney on December 12.

On December 13 the A400M then departed Hobart for Darwin.

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The visit is believed to be the first to Australia by an RAF A400M, and the second A400M visit to Australia after a French air force A400M flew into the Avalon Airshow earlier this year.

A400M RAF ZM406 CNS 12DEC2015 8 Andrew Belczacki
Departing Cairns for Sydney. (Andrew Belczacki)

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40 Comments

  • james

    says:

    Why was it here and why did it have to fly to Hobart?

  • David

    says:

    This is the plane that the RNZAF should purchase to replace their elderly C130’s. C17’s are really not an option due to their price and ongoing costs.

  • Ron

    says:

    That’s what happens when you put two Q400s in a dark hangar. One of them ends up looking like that!

  • TIM

    says:

    Jeez Thanks for Bringing it over this side of the ditch!! Not!!!

  • Raymond

    says:

    What they don’t tell us is where else it’s stopping enroute. Woomera?

    David – C-17 production has ceased.

    Tim – the RNZAF got to check the A400M out at the Avalon Airshow this year.

  • Craigy

    says:

    Maybe it was bringing some support for the UK contingent in Antarctica.

    The UK has used Woomera in the past for different activities. In the 90s when I was there, they were testing to SA80 rifle to see at what point it got to cook off, that is got so hot from firing that it just kept on firing on its own.

  • Steve B

    says:

    HMS Protector was in Hobart. Maybe a supply run?

  • Jason

    says:

    Woomera is a good bet…

    I’d be interested in David’s thoughts on C-17 vs A400M costs, both acquisition and operating, not to mention the capability ‘bang for buck’.

  • PAUL

    says:

    Yes Airbus ran Ads in the NZ Herald for weeks after Avalon- you would think Auckland being 3hrs or so from Brisbane the French airforce could have made a flying visit to generate publicity before heading home..

  • Mal

    says:

    Discussion regarding the RNZAF buying C-17’s is a moot point since production has ceased and the white tails all accounted for. The discussion should be new C130 vs A400M. And in my view, it is a short discussion as the A400M is far more appropriate for NZ’s needs.

  • Michael

    says:

    Actually, I believe that there is one white tail C-17 that is yet to be sold, but really that is just looking for an existing operator to add it to their fleet. The A400 would be interesting for NZ, giving good reach and payload above what the C-130 can do. The same might apply for the RAAF when they look at replacing the C-130Js.
    As to actually seeing an A400, I am still waiting. I did go to the Avalon airshow this year, but the A400 was only there for the trade days, not the public days so I missed it. I did see the F-22s again… parked, I couldn’t get to the 2013 show when they flew. And my first Avalon was the one after the F-111s retired… I have the worst timing for airshows it seems.

  • RH Hastings

    says:

    How nice, Airbus advertises the A400M for transport of military and humanitarian supplies, but now twice it fails the latter opportunity. First was Typhoon Maysak during the Avalon Airshow, and now this trip during Avalon Melor.

    Maybe it just flies around empty all the time trying to rattle up sales?

  • RH Hastings

    says:

    …. during Typhoon Melor.,,,,

  • Peter

    says:

    Why the A400. There is an alternative available and probably cheaper and just as good and that is the EMBRAER KC-390. The RNZAF should also look at this option before buying French or European.

  • Jason

    says:

    KC-390 just as good? Except it’s about half the size…

  • Derrick

    says:

    Jason, you may want to look at the actual size of the KC-390. It is the same size of the A400M, its the size of the cockpit windows that through out the size..

  • Peter

    says:

    Jason, the RNZAF needs to replace the C130’s not a Boeing 747. So you need to compare apples with apples. The KC-390 is much bigger then the C130 and has the latest technology, fuel efficient, fly by wire etc. As I said, the RNZAF needs a replacement, an aircraft that meets the needs. Financially there might also be more benefits for the NZ economy if NZ bought a Brazilian aircraft. There are alway reciprocal transaction on a deal like this.

  • Peter

    says:

    Jason, also read the report the German Defence Force made after the delivery of the first A400. They were devastating with around 300 points that needed correcting. It simply did not match up to the specification profile of requirements Germany had when they orderd the A400

  • Corey

    says:

    I’d like to know what it was doing here in Australia. Was it on a supply run to Antarctica or for some reason a supply run for HMS Protector which wouldn’t make sense to fly all the way around the world for just a supply run for a ship. Was it a covert viewing and assessing for the RAAF and RNZAF? But anyway what time frame will the C-130J aircraft be retired? Also will the RAAF buy the A400M or will Lockheed Martin build an evolved C-130 which can match the A400M with size, range and payload? Would it be better for the RAAF to buy 4-16 second hand C-17s from the USAF then buy new A400ms or C-130s?

  • mick181

    says:

    Actually Derick the A400m is about 40% bigger, max to weight is 120t for A400m, 81t for KC-390, Max load for the A400m is 37t for the KC-390 is 23t,
    The KC-390 is basically 1 for 1 replacement for the C-130 the A400m is in a different league.

  • Dan

    says:

    Will Australia purchase the last white tail? Never say never?

  • Gary

    says:

    Derrick, the KC390 is around two thirds the size of the A400M, length of A400M is 45m vs KC390 33m, Wingspan of A400M is 42m vs KC390 35m, Height of A400M is 15m vs KC390 10m plus max weight of A400M is 141000KG vs KC390 at around 82000KG.

  • Jason

    says:

    Hey, I’m not a fan of the A400M, I’m just correctly pointing out that it is in a different class to the KC-390. Maybe not quite double the size (which I measured in weight), but not far short. You don’t need to sell me either of them, but if I was NZ I would buy neither. I would have been looking at 2-3 C-17s and leveraging off the RAAF’s maintenance and training facilities at Amberley.

    As I read in Australian Aviation last year sometime, the C-17 gives a small country added strategic and diplomatic weight, especially for HADR and coalition operations. Plus, I wouldn’t want to take a Herc, an A400M or a KC-390 to Antarctica and back from Christchurch, whereas a C-17 can do it safely and effectively.

    I also read somewhere else that Qatar’s purchase of the extra four C-17s is in some doubt…so the option might still be there.

  • Gary

    says:

    Jason, I too have read the Qatari C17 rumour. Will be intriguing to see if anyoine can shed any light on the rumour. If so, it may well open up new opportunities!

  • Michael

    says:

    Supposedly, the Qatari C-17s will be delivered next year, but why the delay I have no idea. They, along with the white tail, are in storage at San Antonio, Texas.

    If for some reason, Qatar did not take them, then they would be interesting. NZ would have to get 3 to ensure 1 is available at all times, 4 would mean 2 were almost always available. If they did go down this route though, (or with the A400 idea), they would probably have to look at some smaller tactical airlifters.

  • Harry

    says:

    Every article I have read says or implies that the A400M is an inferior aircraft to the new C-17Js, just ask the French and Germans. France are looking to buy C-17s and Germany are very unhappy with the now very late A400Ms, which are still not kitted with all the requirements many European airforces need them to be capable of. Am I wrong here?

  • Jason

    says:

    Yes Harry, you’re wrong here. France is not looking to buy C-17s, I think you mean C-130Js, and these are mainly for tactical missions and for helicopter air-to-air refueling. The C-130 is in much the same class as the KC-390, and is much smaller than the A400M.

    I think the dissatisfaction with the A400M is linked more to the very delayed development, the slow industrialisation and production ramp, and the fact that some of the originally offered capabilities have been deferred to later upgrades.

    An a military airlifter the A400M is very effective, but some of the special forces support and air-to-air refueling missions planned won’t be available for many years, hence France looking to buy C-130Js and Germany hanging on to some of its C-160s.

  • Derrick

    says:

    France is looking at buying the Kc-390 – i think 20 from memory. But it will be an interesting collection of aircraft. C-130H/J models, KC-390 and A400.

  • Peter

    says:

    I agree with you Jason. To put it in other words, the A400, after all the participating nations realised that it could not deliver, had no other choice but to take it in reduced numbers. It was a political issue with a huge amount of French and German prestige at stake.
    What use is there to buy an aircraft that some of the basic capabilities will be upgraded at God knows when, if ever. On paper it might be the best, but it will go down in history the same as the Lockheed Tristar did although the Tristar was a very good aircraft in comparison. At the moment the only thing it does is fly. What use is there to buy an expensive high tech aircraft which cannot deliver and the Germans as well as the French (although they don’t like to admit it), need to go back to the good old working horses Hercules and Transall to do basic work.
    The KC 390 is bigger than the Hercules and much bigger than the Transall. Time will tell, but I am convinced that it will be a success without having all of those snags the A400 has and will always have.

  • mick181

    says:

    No one! I repeat no one will be buying any more C-17s they are no longer in production,it’s no use anyone on here talking about buying any more!

  • Corey

    says:

    Is there any chance Australia could buy second hand C-17s from the USAF? I know the USAF have had to ground 2-3 squadrons of C-17s and store them because they don’t have the money to fly them in the budgets they have these days. Lets say 4 second hand C-17s with similar flight hours and cycles to the current aircraft within the fleet? Also maybe NZ having 4 C-17s might help Australia but I think the A400M is better suited for the RNZAF than a C-17. Also what about a re engine for the C-17 using the GEnx-2B engines and a new flight deck using the new BEA systems active side stick and 787 like flight display?

  • mick181

    says:

    Highly unlikely Corey, they will put them into storage with a high likelihood of being returned to service when more money is available and they will be early build anyway so somewhere between 15 & 20 yrs old and hard used.
    I don’t think Australia is in the market for any more airlifters at this time, not with the huge cost of new Fighters,Frigates,Subs and Armoured vechiles to be aquired over the next 15-20 yrs. I suspect the next Airlifter purchase will be for a C-130J replacement and that won’t be untill 2025 at least.

  • Rons47

    says:

    Never say there will be no more C17s as FedEx and UPS were looking buying 100s of freighters

  • Chris

    says:

    The A400M is here because we are interested in acquiring it. It presents a unique offering that sits between the capabilities of the C-130J and the C-17A. It can land on much rougher unmade runways than a C-17A, costs less than 20% to fly and has twice the range. The A400M would be a great addition to our heavy lift capabilities as it would for the RNZAF.

  • Jason

    says:

    An A400M has twice the range of a C-17??? I don’t think so Chris!

  • Jason

    says:

    The USAF has “2-3 squadrons” of C-17s in storage? No, it really doesn’t.

    The only C-17s in storage are 5 Boeing white tails pending the finalisation of their sales.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Chris, so you’re saying that the RAAF is seriously interested in the A400M, even with all the other airlift capability acquired recently and coming online? Maybe as a C-130J replacement after 2020, maybe. But to augment the C-130 and C-17 fleets, any sources for this claim?

  • Chris

    says:

    Correction on the range guys. Thats a typo. But yes, the RAAF is eyeing off the A400M but not as a replacement for the C130J’s because it’s not. It’s much larger than a C130. Has a totally different mission profile. Do your own research Raymond. It’s out there if you make a little effort. I will say that any ambition of slotting A400M’s into our fleet is now a long term vision at this point in time. C-17 and the ordering of extra airframes promoted changes in fleet mix and planned airlift capability thanks to it’s outstanding performance for us. As a result, A400M was put on the back burner with an eye to take a closer look again some time in the future. Also, the integration of C-27, again with a completely different capability profile to C-130, C-17 & A400M, will keep RAAF busy for the time being in the airlift, humanitarian and other roles of the fleet.

  • Jason

    says:

    The RAAF is NOT eyeing off the A400M. There is no active project let alone anyone tasked to study replacements for the C-130Js yet, and there is unlikely to be until the early-mid 2020s. It is not on anyone’s radar screens yet.

  • Harry

    says:

    Whoops, excuse me Jason, I had a bit of dyslexia; I meant to say:

    – “Every article I have read says or implies that the A400M is an inferior aircraft to the new (C-130Js), just ask the French and Germans. France are looking to buy (C-130s) and Germany are very unhappy with the now very late A400Ms, which are still not kitted with all the requirements many European airforces need them to be capable of. Am I wrong here?” –

    Although the A400Ms carry slightly more payload than the extended C-130Js and obviously go further more efficiently etc they lack at this time many of the significant tactical capabilities that the C-130Js can provide for infantry forces.

    Anyway, I see no reason why RAAF would need A400M medium strategic lift in addition to the 10 C-27 light tactical lift, 12 C-130J medium tactical lift and 8 C-17 heavy strategic lift unless it was going to replace one of those platforms in those roles, unlikely considering those are all recently acquired platforms. In the future maybe I could see it replacing the C-130Js but not for 20 years or so.

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