As the Royal Air Force (RAF) continues to expand and develop the capabilities of its Airbus A400M Atlas C1 fleet, the service revealed on September 7 that it has successfully completed a series of low-level parachute trials on the type.
The trials were planned and delivered by No 206 Squadron – the RAF’s Heavy Aircraft Test and Evaluation Squadron – and the Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit (JADTEU), both of which are based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. Supported by paratroopers from the British Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team and the Royal Marines’ 3 Commando Brigade, these trials saw an Atlas C1 conduct several ‘Mass Para Insertion’ sorties over the Salisbury Plain in central-southern England for the first time.
These trials come as the RAF continues to ready the A400M Atlas C1’s tactical capabilities (such as the low-level parachuting mission) ahead of the type taking over from the outgoing Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules C4/C5 fleet, which is scheduled to be retired for operational service in 2023. The Atlas C1 has already proved its ability to conduct a host of tactical operations, ranging from natural surface operations to airdropping light stores and now low-level parachuting.
Commenting on these trials, Air Cdre Martin – the RAF’s Atlas Programme Senior Responsible Owner – said: “The successful initiation of mass low-level parachuting trials on the Atlas Capability Programme. This significant step is the result of a lot of hard work by the whole team and keeps the programme on track to transfer low-level and high-altitude parachuting capability from [the] C-130J Hercules onto the Atlas next year.
“Adding both parachuting capabilities to the range of other tactical capabilities that are already in service such as the ability to airdrop supplies, air-to-air refuelling, and landing on natural surfaces, puts the Atlas in a good position to take over from the Hercules in 2023,” he concluded.
Manufactured by Airbus, the A400M Atlas C1 entered operational RAF service in November 2014. In total, 22 examples were ordered after initial plans for 25 aircraft were changed due to financial constraints. The RAF has so far received 20 of the 22 A400Ms on order, with the type being operated by No XXIV (24) Squadron, No 30 Squadron, No LXX (70) Squadron and No 206 Squadron from RAF Brize Norton. It is expected that the UK will place an order for additional Atlas C1s in the coming years, but exactly how many has yet to be confirmed.