Beluga for outsized military cargo? Airbus tests new loading system

An Airbus Beluga military transport loading a helicopter.
Photo Credit: Airbus Media

LONDON – Airbus Defence and Space has just announced that it has developed and tested in recent days a loading system for lifting oversized military cargo into the Airbus Beluga A300-600ST aircraft.

The capability was successfully tested during a verification exercise with the German armed forces, the system’s first customer, by loading a CH53 military medium-lift helicopter into the Beluga ST.

“The demand for outsized air cargo capability is on the rise. Capacity is scarce and, in light of current geopolitical developments, many customers are looking for new, fast and efficient solutions.”

“This is exactly what we offer with our BelugaST fleet. Our teams have been working on a remarkable solution to facilitate a speedy, efficient and autonomous handling to load heavy military cargo onto the aircraft.”

“Speed, agility and autonomy are crucial elements for our customers when it comes to such operations,” said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space.

New system for military cargo

As Airbus Defence and Space points out, the new payload and lever system was self-funded and developed by the company’s engineers. The new system was presented in recent days to customer representatives from the international armed forces after a verification event in Manching near Munich.

The loading system was developed and produced from scratch in about 1.5 years. This involved from the initial exchange of ideas with the German army until its verification, which is expected to be officially confirmed by the Bundeswehr in the coming weeks.

The system makes it possible to prepare the loading of, for example, a CH53 helicopter in a state of reduced disassembly in less than 1.5 hours, while the loading process itself on a Beluga aircraft can be completed in about an hour.

The total lifting capacity of the system, which does not require the use of a crane, reaches 35 tons and can be moved to the aircraft’s destination.

Airbus’ iconic Beluga for outsized-cargo demand

Airbus announced back in January that it had begun providing a new service – air cargo transportation, using its fleet of older A300-600 Beluga ST transport aircraft. In this way, it is offering shipping companies and other customers a way to meet their needs for transporting oversized goods.

In place of the A300 aircraft, Airbus is introducing six next-generation BelugaXL aircraft – based on the larger A330-200 – starting in 2019 to support the increase in passenger aircraft production.

For BelugaST aircraft, this means they can begin a new phase of operation. These airframes still have quite a few flight hours to reach their originally designed operating limits.

In addition, to better meet the demands of truly international operations, Beluga ST aircraft will be equipped with a next-generation Flight Management System (FMS) with ADS-B for enhanced navigation capabilities on intercontinental flights.

The new service, announced under the name Airbus Beluga Transport, will provide commercially acquired customers from a variety of sectors, including space, energy, military, aviation, maritime and humanitarian aid, with a solution to their transportation problems.

The first transport mission was organized in December 2021 to deliver cargo for an undisclosed customer from the Airbus Helicopters facility in Marignane to Kobe. During that mission Beluga #3 stopped to refuel at Warsaw (Poland), Novosibirsk (Russia) and Seoul (Korea).

An Arbus Beluga aircraft departing from Warsaw Chopin Airport.
Beluga #3 departing from Warsaw Chopin Airport

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