Belgium became the eighth operator of the Airbus A400M Atlas heavy-lift tactical transport after it accepted its first of seven aircraft at the A400M Final Assembly Line in Seville, Spain, on December 22.
Following its official handover to the Belgian Air Component in Spain, the aircraft – serial CT-02 (c/n 106) – was subsequently flown from Seville to Melsbroek air base in Steenokkeerzeel, Belgium. The nation’s seven A400Ms will be operated within a binational airlift unit alongside the Luxembourg Armed Forces, which received its first and only example on October 7, 2020. All eight aircraft will be operated from Melsbroek under 20 Squadron – Tactical Transport Flight (TTF), which is a part of the Belgian Air Component’s 15 Wing.
Alberto Gutierrez, head of Military Aircraft at Airbus Defence and Space, said: “With the delivery of this aircraft, all launch customers are now equipped with the A400M. [CT-02 (c/n 106)] will join Luxembourg’s aircraft in the binational unit operated jointly with Belgium. Despite challenges due to COVID-19, our teams have achieved all ten aircraft deliveries scheduled this year, bringing the global fleet in operation to 98 aircraft.”
Belgium will receive its second A400M in early 2021. In Belgian service, the binational A400M unit will replace the nation’s ageing Lockheed C-130H Hercules fleet, which is currently operated by 15 Wing’s 20 Squadron – TTF and is scheduled to be completely retired by 2022.