Airbus A400M: Redefining aerial firefighting capability

An Airbus A400M firefighting aircraft drops retardant.
Photo Credit: Airbus

Airbus Defence and Space has successfully conducted a new flight-test program for the A400M Roll-on/Roll-off firefighting prototype kit.

This innovation, aimed at bolstering firefighting capabilities, showcased its prowess by dropping an impressive 20,000 litres of retardant in high concentration lines spanning over 400 meters on the ground.

A400M’s Improved Firefighting Kit

Over a two-week period in the picturesque landscapes of south-western and central Spain, the A400M not only undertook ground and flight tests but also executed six test drops.

Among these, three involved red-coloured retardant, while the remaining trio utilized water. Jean-Brice Dumont, the Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space, lauded the advancements, stating,

“We have tested a new version of the kit, improving dropping efficiency and reducing discharge time by over 30% compared to last year.”

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A Versatile Roll-on/Roll-off Solution

One of the standout features of this firefighting prototype is its easy installation. Unlike conventional modifications, this roll-on/roll-off kit seamlessly integrates with any aircraft in the A400M fleet without necessitating any alterations.

Stored in a cargo hold tank, the water or retardant is dispensed effortlessly through a discharge pipe, thanks to a mechanical lever.

The current design allows for a remarkable 20,000-litre discharge in a single operation. Moreover, the tanks can be swiftly filled in under 10 minutes using standard high-pressure pumps on the ground.

This adaptability aligns with the A400M’s reputation for taking off and landing on short and unpaved runways, making it a versatile asset for a wide array of air bases and airfields.

Photo Credit: Airbus

Spanish Air Force’s Role

During the extensive campaign, the 43rd Firefighting Squadron of the Spanish Air Force played a pivotal role as technical advisors.

Their involvement not only ensured the smooth integration of the prototype but also attested to its operational value for potential operators.

This collaboration emphasizes the real-world applicability and effectiveness of the A400M’s firefighting capabilities.

Airbus Defence and Space had previously tested a removable firefighting demonstrator kit on the A400M in July 2022.

The results were promising, concluding that the A400M firefighting kit offers unparalleled capabilities not found elsewhere in the market.

These include a high-dropping capacity, exceptional manoeuvrability adhering to the latest safety standards, day and night operation feasibility, and the unique potential to convert any regular A400M in any fleet into a firefighting aircraft at remarkably short notice.

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Airbus Defence and Space has successfully conducted a new flight-test program for the A400M Roll-on/Roll-off firefighting prototype kit.
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