One of the characteristics of the A400M is its ability to land virtually everywhere. This tactical capability was once more demonstrated with successful landing tests on Pembrey Sands beach, United Kingdom.
In preparation for future operations on unpaved runways, the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) requested Airbus to perform joint beach operation trials on Pembrey Sands, during 16-18 May 2017. Beaches are routinely used by the RAF for training operations with other tactical airlifters. This time it was the turn of the A400M to continue showcasing its superb tactical capabilities on natural low-CBR surfaces, as previously demonstrated in Woodbridge (UK).
To ensure a safe and successful operation, a joint multidisciplinary team of RAF and Airbus specialists worked together to prepare the field for the A400M arrival from Brize-Norton: measuring of the hardness of the surface, marking-up the touch down area and runway length, etc.
The runway was surveyed during the previous day by pavement specialists from Airbus, with measurements of the CBR (parameter used to measure surface strength). The aircraft testing involved several “touch and goes”, full-stop landings, taxis and U-turns performed with a heavy aircraft gross weight over 100 tonnes / 220,000 lb. The crew additionally had the opportunity to validate the positive aircraft response during the different braking tests, including with and without reverse thrust, and with low and medium auto-brake settings.
“The results were better than expected, including positive response in braking efficiency and stops” according to the flight test pilots’ feedback.
For the future RAF operations, this evaluation will enable the possibility of carrying a mission-relevant payload over 2000 nm or 3700 km, deliver itonto a soft unprepared runway such as a beach strip, and return to the Main Operating Base (MOB) without refuelling.
As RAF Flt Lt Darren Clarke stated: “[…]. This is a significant capability.”