The four-engine turboprop aircraft touched down at its new home of RAF Brize Norton from Seville where the Atlas is assembled, including wings made in the United Kingdom.
“Recent events in Sudan have illustrated once again the importance of tactical air mobility. Operating from an austere airfield Atlas helped evacuate over 2200 entitled personnel and fly them to safety. The latest aircraft therefore joins a fleet which is already proven on operations and utilised globally in support of UK interests. Atlas has a fly-by-wire flight control system and full glass cockpit. It can carry a 37-tonne payload over 2,000nm to both established and remote civilian and military airfields. Its exceptional short field performance enables it to operate from short un-prepared as well as semi-prepared strips, all achievable whilst utilising night vision goggles,” said Air Vice-Marshal Mark Flewin CBE, Air Officer Commanding No. 1 Group.
Development of the platform will continue with aircraft cycling through a retro-fit programme to reach an operating configuration with significant commonality to that of the other Airbus A400M Atlas operators France, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Benelux and Malaysia. In parallel, its tactical capability will continue to expand, including the full range of support to UK airborne forces.
Defence Equipment and Support is responsible for delivering the Atlas fleet and team leader Nick Moore said:
“Being in a position to hand over the final aircraft to the RAF was a great honour and I have done so on behalf of the entire A400M team at DE&S who have worked tirelessly alongside our colleagues at Airbus, OCCAR and the RAF to deliver this outstanding aircraft. All of us can be rightly proud of our role in ensuring the RAF can transport troops and equipment where needed, both in support of military operations and critical humanitarian missions”.
Since entering RAF service in 2014, Atlas has repeatedly proven itself. It has excelled during relief operations in the Caribbean and contributed fully to the military response to COVID, transporting patients, equipment & vaccines. It played a pivotal role in the evacuation of entitled personnel from Afghanistan and Sudan, and has provided support to UK Defence operations around the globe, including the Middle East, Falkland Islands, and Mali.
In addition, Atlas supports enduring operations in the Middle East and NATO Air Policing operations in the Baltic. In the UK Atlas has a 24/7 national standby commitment and supported the UK Border Force with maritime reconnaissance (MRR) in the English Channel, long-range search and rescue (SAR) and overwatch. An Atlas is also based in the Falkland Islands, providing MRR, SAR and medical evacuation in the South Atlantic, and with the benefit of air-air refuelling airdropping supplies in Antarctica.