Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum, Airbus Military - Translation: Marc Arys
İ sbap 2019
   
The first transport aircraft Airbus A400M will arrive at Melsbroek as from May 2020 on. The first one being in the Luxemburg colours and they will replace the last nine C-130H Hercules, of which the last example will be withdrawn from service in January 2022.
The first aircraft, MSN 106, wearing the black, yellow and red roundels will be there 20 years after the contract was signed during the Salon du Bourget in 2001.
End of April, the first of these eight future transport aircraft Airbus A400M, BeLux (Belgium-Luxemburg) has taken a decisive step in its long assembly process. It was at the gigantic "Final Assembly Line" (FAL) of Airbus at the Sevilla plant in Southern Spain, that the wing/fuselage junction was completed, just a few days before the presentation to the Belgo-Luxemburg authorities, led by the Belgian Minister of Defence (MoD), Didier Reynders.
The construction number of this aircraft is MSN 104 and the plane is due to take to the skies in the following months for flight testing before delivery. Noteworthy is the fact that this is a première for Luxemburg as they did not had any air force since 1953 after the withdrawal of their 3 Piper Cub observation airfcraft.
In 2001 the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg decided, with Belgium and six other nations, to share in this already 'ancient' project called the future transport aircraft (FLA - Future Large Aircraft). In the meantime Portugal withdrew of the project.

A new hangar
MSN 104 is due to be delivered at the military airbase of Melsbroek in May 2020 and will be joined by the seven Belgian aircraft, for an estimated cost of 1,2 billion of Euros, without including the forthcoming construction at Melsbroek of a large new hangar and a facility provided for the Belgo-Luxemburg flight simulator.
To this day, 77 A400M were deliverd to six countries, five European (Germany, Spain, France, United Kingdom and Turkey) as well as 4 aircraft to Malaysia... as stated by the manager of the Airbus plant at Sevilla, Martin Armas.
The assembly of an A400M, quiet a complex airplane, takes about 24 months to be completed, from the production of the first parts to delivery to the customer.
Final assembly was entrusted to the Sevilla factory, located within the compound of the civilian airport of the Andalusian capital city and dedicated to the military aircraft of the European manufacturer. Numerous European companies, of which 5 Belgian, are involved in the production of sub assemblies, representing almost 4,5% of the total amount, as said by MoD Dider Reynders.

Involvement of Belgian industry
Asco, Esterline, SABCA as well as Sonaca are linked to the program since the beginning. Safran Aero Boosters (ex Techspace Aero) is participating, also at 4%, with six European engine builders for the manufacturing of the powerfull turboprop engine TP400 for the A400M.
The first part of the fuselage for the Luxemburg MSN 104 was manufactured a year ago, on May 17, 2018 at Bremen (Germany). The first flight is foreseen at the beginning of 2020.
MSN 106, the first Belgian A400M is due to follow, to replace the last nine C-130H Hercules, in service since 1972-1973. The supervisor of the program within the General Staff of Defence, Colonel Benoit Hanselme, stated that the six other deliveries will be spread until 2023 (3 in 2021, 3 in 2022 and the last one in February 2023).
Various parts of this A400M, our A400M, like the nosecone and the vertical fin were visible at the Airbus plant, as well as some other aircraft ment for other customer countries, all in various stages of manufacturing.

The different pieces of the aircraft will be produced at various sites. The fuselage will be built at Bremen (Germany) and Ankar (Turkey) ; the wings at Filton (United Kingdom ; the nose at Saint-Nazairfe (France) and the tail assembly at Stade (Germany). The engine components will also be built at various sites before being assembled and tested at Munich (Germany). Some equipments as the leading edges and landing gear doors will be manufactured in Belgium.
The withdrawal of the last C-130H Hercules, out of the 12 originally bought and one second-hand buy, is foreseen in January 2022, after some 50 years of good and loyal services under the Belgian coulours, and often in difficult conditions.
The Minister of Defence emphasized on the European dimension of the A400M project, launched in December 2001, even when it has encountered some delays and quite important overruns of the costs, largely supported by Airbus. The Minister of Defence and of Foreign Affairs also insisted on the bilateral cooperation with the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.
Four Luxemburg pilots are integrated in the 15 Transport and Communication Wing at Melsbroek, awaiting delevery of "their" aircraft, which will be jointly operated by the two countries. This collaboration will complete the existing "naval" one with the Netherlands and the emerging one with France regarding the re-equipment of the Army Component with armoured vehicles like the Griffon and Jaguar.

 
MSN 104
 
Arrival at Sevilla of the MSN 104 fuselage 
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
The stabilizer
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
 Junction nose section and fuselage
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
Rolling to the STA40
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
 The wings are ready
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
Wings - Fuselage mounting
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
The vertical fin
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
The MSN 104 in the mounting station
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Nose and main landing gear
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
The engine location
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 Left wing section
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Wings - Fuselage junction
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 A part of the slats
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Inside the giant
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 Simply impressive
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
A400M, a giant engineering puzzle
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 High-tech aeronautics
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 Mr Martin Armas
San Pablo (Sevilla) Site Manager
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Mr Michael Menking
A400M Program Manager
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 Mr Gilles Feith
Chief of Staff at the Luxembourg Ministry of Defense
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Vice Amiral Michel Hofman
Vice Chief of Defense
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 Mr Jorge Caro
General Secretary Airbus Spanish division
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Mr Didier Reynders
Belgian Minister of Defense
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
The souvenir picture in front of the MSN 104
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 
 
MSN 106
 
 Arrival at Sevilla
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
Impressive machine the Airbus A300-600ST "Beluga"
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
 Arrival of the nose section MSN 106, the first Belgian one
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
MSN 106 stabilizer
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
Wings awaiting the fuselage
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)

 The vertical fin
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
The nose in the FAL (Final Assembly Line)
Mr Didier Reynders and Mr Michael Menking
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ) (Serge Van Heertumİ)
 Where the stabilizer have to be
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
One of the engine mount
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 Some Belgian TV broadcast interview, Mr Didier Reynders MOD 
emphasized on the European dimension of the A400M project
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
General Major Avi Frederik Vansina, Chief of the Belgian Air Force 
looking with enthusiasm to the future of the Air Force
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Some data's
(Belgian Air Force doc)
 
Airbus Military Sevilla
 
Aerial view of the San Pablo site at Sevilla
(Google Earth)
  
A little bit history
The A400M (formerly known as the Future Large Aircraft - FLA) is a military transporter designed to meet the requirements of the Belgian, French, German, Spanish, Turkish, Luxembourg and UK air forces.
An European staff target was drawn up in 1993, together with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the governments of the seven nations. Portugal and Italy subsequently withdrew from the program. Other companies with a share in the program include BAE Systems (UK), EADS (Germany, France and Spain), Flabel (Belgium) and Tusas Aerospace Industries (Turkey). Final assembly took place in Seville, Spain.
In May 2003, a development and production contract was signed between Airbus and European procurement agency OCCAR for 212 aircraft. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Turkey, Belgium, and Luxembourg initially signed but Italy subsequently withdrew. The order was consequently reduced to 180 aircraft with deliveries starting in 2009.
First metal cut for the airframe of the A400M took place in January 2005 and assembly began in 2007. The first flight was scheduled for early 2008; however, this was delayed by engine development problems. The first A400M aircraft was officially rolled out in June 2008 and the long-awaited maiden flight took place on 11 December 2009.
The aircraft took off with 127 tons of weight, carrying 15 tons of test equipment, including 2 tons of water ballast. The official maximum take-off weight is 141 tons.
This first A400M is known as MSN1. The second A400M, MSN2, completed its maiden flight on 8 April 2010, while MSN3 completed its maiden flight on 9 July 2010. The fourth A400M MSN4 completed its maiden flight in December 2010. The first production aircraft of A400M (MSN7) completed its maiden flight on 6 March 2013.
In January 2009, EADS postponed the first deliveries of the A400M until 2012 and proposed to develop a new approach for the A400M to discover new ways to improve the program.
2009 continued to be a troubled year for the A400M as estimates on the cost overrun of the project were released with predictions of up to 11.2 billion Euros over budget. The South African Air Force started to look at alternatives for the A400M and the European partners placed it under consideration. In April 2005, South Africa signed a contract with Airbus Military to be a full participant in the A400M program. South Africa ordered eight aircraft for delivery between 2010 and 2014., but South Africa cancelled the order in November 2009.
 Airbus suggested that the program might be scrapped unless 5.3 billion Euros could be provided.
In November 2010, Belgium, the UK, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey agreed to lend Airbus 1.5 billion and proceeded with the program. However, Germany and the UK reduced the number of aircraft from to 53 and 22 respectively, reducing the total aircraft to 170 (+ 4 Malaysia Air Force). In December 2005, Malaysia signed a contract for the purchase of four A400M. Deliveries began in March 2015 and concluded in March 2017.
First deliveries were made to the French Air Force in August 2013 with final deliveries are planned for 2025.
The Spanish Air Force took delivery of its first A400M in December 2016. The French Air Force received its 14th A400M aircraft in March 2018 and Germany took the delivery of its 18th A400M in March 2018.
 
(Serge Van Heertumİ) (Serge Van Heertumİ)
Main landing gear
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Working on the underside of the fuselage
(Serge Van Heertumİ)

MSN 105 at STA 60
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Real modern tooling
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Static testing hangar (MSN 101)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
In this location all the systems are tested as if the plane is flying (MSN 099)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
The cargo is 17.71 m long excluding ramp, 4.00 m wide and 3.85 m high
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
The maximum payload of 37 tons can be carried over 2,000 Nautical Miles
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Ratier-Figeac FH385 & FH386 propellers have a diameter of 5.3m
Engine #2 & #4 = FH385 (rotation left - right)
Engine #1 & #3 = FH386 (rotation right - left)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
The eight blades are electronically managed
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 
 
The finished product
 
The Luftwaffe 54+32 (MSN 096)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ) (Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ) Wind protection for airdrops
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
More than 14 meters high...
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
12 main wheels...
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ) FH385 Propeller
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ) Luftwaffe 54+29 (MSN 090)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Windshield view
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ) (Serge Van Heertumİ)

EuroProp International TP400-D6
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ) (Serge Van Heertumİ)

The removable refueling probe mounted above the cockpit allow 
the aircraft to receive fuel from drogue-equipped aircraft
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
A view into the cargo bay and the loading ramp
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Doors control panel
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Exhausts
(Serge Van Heertumİ)

 Landing light and position lught
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Main forward door
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
 
 
Total firm orders for the A400M: 174 aircraft
 
Malaysia Air Force
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
 
Belgian Air Force           		07
French Air Force           		50
German Air Force          		53
Luxembourg Air Force   		01
Malaysia Air Force 	     	04
Royal Air Force 		        	22
Spanish Air Force 	       	27
Turkish Air Force 	      	10
 
Turkish Air Force
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
 
 
Airbus Defence and Space A400M productions
 
The Airbus Defence and Space main apron
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
EC-402 (MSN 002) the second prototype
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ) EC-406 (MSN 006)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
EC-404 (MSN 004)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
MSN 100 (Luftwaffe) and MSN 103 (Armée de l'Air)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Future French Air Force aircraft
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
54+28 (MSN 088)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
54+31 (MSN 092)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
54+30 (MSN 091)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Luftwaffe is the largest A400M operator
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
54+26 (MSN 086)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
A real giant aircraft
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Luftwaffe 54+01 (MSN 018) in flight
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
The Spanish Air Force n° 25 (MSN 097)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ) (Serge Van Heertumİ)
Working on the EuroProp International TP400-D6
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
The aircraft can also act as a tanker when fitted with two wing mounted hose
and drogue under-wing refuelling pods. Belgian aircraft will have this option.
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Royal Air Force Atlas C.1 ZM401 (MSN 016)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Royal Air Force beach trials
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)
 
 
Airbus Defence and Space other productions
  
EADS CASA - Airbus Defence and Space
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
C295 used for the AEW trials (EC-295)
The radome is no longer mounted on the plane
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
C295M Kazakhstan Air Defence Force 04 red (c/n 126)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
From left to right:
C235M-10 Botswana Defence Force (OG2) (c/n C009)
C295MPA Royal Air Force of Oman (913) (c/n 141)
C295M Ghana Air Force (GHF550) (c/n 081)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
The c/n 171 without any markings
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
C295W Royal Thai Air Force (No code) (c/n 160)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
Full white without markings 5Y-JUB (Kenya), Stellwagen Leasing Cie
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
C295W United Arab Emirates Air Force (822) (c/n 182)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
C295W United Arab Emirates Air Force (823) (c/n xxx)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
(Serge Van Heertumİ)
 
 
The future is tomorrow...
(Courtesy Airbus Defence and Spaceİ)

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