Airbus successfully tested a plug-and-play conversion kit for the A400M military transport aircraft to turn it into a water bomber.
The campaign lasted several weeks and took place in Spain, where the A400M design offices are located, in July 2022. It was carried out with the help of the 43rd Group Firefighting Squadron of the Spanish Air Force.
The kit developed by Airbus can be rolled into the cargo hold of any A400M without any modification to the aircraft. As such, it allows for a rapid reconfiguration of the airlifters when a fire emergency arises.
On July 21, 2022, during a test in Guadalajara, Central Spain, the A400M released 20 tons of water in less than 10 seconds. As a comparison, the Grumman S2F Tracker can carry up to 3.5 tons of water, while the iconic Canadair CL-415 has a capacity of 6 tons. Converted C-130 Hercules transport aircraft using the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) can release up to 11 tons.
“The development of this firefighting kit is an intrinsic part of our journey towards helping to create a more sustainable and safer world, not only by our actions but also through our products,” said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, in a press release published on July 26, 2022. “We strongly believe the A400M can play a vital role in the fight against the ever-increasing threat posed by wildfires and support the restoration of social and environmental systems.”
The next part of the campaign will see the kit tested in nighttime conditions. The solution developed by Airbus comes at the right time, when France and other European nations have been facing a lack of air resources to fight wildfires. Countries already operating the A400M would be capable of easily increasing their fleet of water bombers.
The A400M is a military transport aircraft designed by Airbus Defence and Space. It entered service in 2013 and is offered as a successor for older transporters such as the C-130 Hercules or the C-160 Transall. It can transport up to 37 tons of cargo or 116 soldiers with equipment over 4,500 kilometers.