France’s Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) announced that an Airbus A400M tactical tanker/transport had completed the first ‘wet’ air-to-air (AAR) refuelling contact with a H225M Caracal helicopter on August 19.
The milestone came during a flight test campaign, which was carried out from July 20 to July 31, 2020. The AAR trials involved an Airbus-operated A400M demonstrator and a French Air Force H225M Caracal medium-lift tactical transport helicopter from 1/67 ‘Pyrénées’ at Cazaux air base, near Bordeaux. The tests sought to transfer fuel between the two aircraft to assess the flight envelope and refuelling performance.
The July flight tests were supervised by the DGA’s Flight Test Center of Expertise, with crews from both Airbus and the DGA. This test campaign seeks to further expand the envelope of the A400M’s AAR capabilities, allowing the types to refuel helicopters in an operational setting by 2021. The DGA added: “It is one of the last remaining capabilities requiring qualification as part of the final aircraft standard, expected in 2022.”
In French service, the A400M’s AAR capability will augment the air arm’s Lockheed Martin KC-130J Super Hercules tanker/transports and it has already been certified to refuel the Rafale, C-130 and other A400Ms.
Until the completion of this ‘wet’ refuelling test, only ‘dry’ AAR contact tests had been carried out, taking place in September 2019. These trials assessed the aerodynamic behaviour of the aircraft, checking the feasibility of the contacts between the basket on the end of the A400M’s refuelling hose and the Caracal’s refuelling probe.