What if the Airbus A400M completed the Air Canada fleet?

The European aircraft manufacturer has successfully developed an adaptive range of this military aircraft, thereby converting it into a water-propelled grenade launcher.

The proliferation of giant fires in France in recent weeks has reignited the controversy over our means of action, and in particular the famous Candaire.

Several voices denounced the inadequacy of the fleet (12 aircraft), consisting of old aircraft, a certain number of which are under maintenance.

The renewal of the Kanderis is the eel. In 2019, Senate report Two-thirds of the devices are over 25 years old. It must be said that the purchase of these aircraft is very expensive (between 20 and 30 million euros), use (15,000 euros per flying hour), not to mention regular maintenance given that they are used in extreme cases.

Emmanuel Macron admits: “Yes, we need more Canadians […] We have to buy more, but do it at the European level.”

20 tons of water fell in 10 seconds

However, alternative and European solutions could emerge to enhance these fleets. Airbus has just successfully completed a flight test campaign in Spain of its A400M military aircraft equipped with a prototype removable fire fighting kit.

The device was able to drop up to 20 tons of water from the existing tank in less than ten seconds, at a low altitude (45 meters) and at low speed when Canadair could only 6.

An Airbus A400 M turned into a water-propelled grenade launcher
An Airbus A400M transformed into a hydrofoil © Airbus

Technically, this firefighting solution comes in the form of a RORO (roll-on/roll-off) kit that requires no aircraft modification, making it fully compatible with any aircraft in the fleet. And this is its second advantage: the use of this solution makes it possible to easily and quickly turn the aircraft into a hydrofoil and thereby intervene as quickly as possible.

The water is stored in a tank loaded in a shed and equipped with two separate outlets connected to water pipes which, when the crane is operating, expel water from two sections of about half a square meter to the end of the rear ramp.

A kit that fits any aircraft in the fleet

“The main objective of this expedition was to verify the amount of water and launch time as well as the aircraft’s ability to perform water-bomber missions with this new kit,” the European aircraft maker explains.

This firefighting toolkit has been developed and tested in close cooperation with the 43rd Squadron of the Spanish Air Force that specializes in fighting forest fires, European fire authorities and the Spanish Ministry of Environmental Transformation and Demographic Challenge (MITECO).

“Developing this firefighting suite is part of our desire to help create a safer and more sustainable world, through our business and products. We firmly believe that the A400M can play a role at the forefront of combating the growing threat posed by wildfires, as well as in maintaining systems environmental protection,” commented Mike Schuellehorn, CEO of Airbus Defense and Space.

In addition to developing a production version of this kit, Airbus plans to analyze this type of mission in night conditions, in order to enhance the capability and efficiency of the aircraft in this configuration.

Remember that France has 18 A400Ms and nearly 50 have been ordered.

Oliver Schechbortich BFM Business Journalist

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