French DGA Takes Delivery of A400M Capable of Automatic Low Altitude Flight, Releasing Paratroopers

The French Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) has taken delivery of the 18th Airbus A400M transport aircraft.

“The DGA has just taken delivery of the 18th A400M equipped with all the capabilities validated to date, including the simultaneous release of paratroopers from the two doors and automatic flight at very low altitude. It will soon be delivered to Armée de l’Air (French Air Force),” DGA tweeted today.

In May 2020, the A400M new generation airlifter achieved certification of its Automatic Low Level Flight capability. The certification campaign involved operations down to 500ft, including transitions from low level flight to other operations like aerial delivery.

The French Air Force became the first customer to receive Airbus’ A400M in 2013.

The service took delivery of its 15th A400M Atlas military transport aircraft, the first directly outfitted to the “tactical standard” in May 2019. This aircraft has an expanded ability to land and take off from unprepared terrain and the capacity to make landing approaches under automatic pilot in all weather. These aircraft have new capabilities:  the ejection of heavy loads up to 16 tons from the rear ramp, and refueling by the central point. Refueling from a central point will be by means of a Hose Drum Unit (HDU) stored in the hold when not in use.

All French A400M Atlas jets are set to be upgraded to the tactical standard.

DGA had earlier said that the new A400Ms will also have the capacity to parachute more than 30 paratroopers per door and per dispatch. The military’s requirement is that 116 paratroopers jump out of the aircraft in one dispatch.

In 2019, Defense News reported that the parachute capability was impossible because of an issue with the so-called D-Bags, which hold the paratroopers chutes on their backs. This bag is opened automatically by a static line connected to an anchor cable and to the paratroopers. As they step out of the aircraft door the static line pulls taut, removing the D-Bag from the parachute and allowing it to open very quickly. The D-Bag remains attached to the static line and flaps alongside the outside of the aircraft. As more paratroopers jump out, the volume of discarded D-Bags increases, presenting a hazard to those waiting to jump.

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