The rapid transfer of French military forces over long distances – and the ability to arrive ready for immediate, high-intensity operations – was demonstrated by a mission from France to the South Pacific, with airlift and aerial refuelling support from Airbus-built A400M and A330 MRTT aircraft.
Two A400M airlifters and two A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports from the French Air and Space Force’s inventory were involved in the June-July mission, which validated the country’s ability to protect its citizens and the farthest territories. This showed how a French force projection could reach Polynesia in less than 48 hours, with sustained air operations performed on arrival.
As part of the mission, the A330 MRTTs supported French front-line combat aircraft with seven en-route air-to-air refuellings, while the A400Ms carried approximately 30 tonnes of equipment and cargo.
Airbus’ Services teams based in France at the air bases of Orléans (home to the A400Ms) and Istres (for A330 MRTTs) were involved throughout the deployment. “We provided end-to-end support to these operations,” underlined François Winterhalter, the Airbus Head of Services Centres France. This covered the scope from on-aircraft and management systems maintenance to spares provision, quality control and post-flight analysis.
In addition to this show of force projection, the Airbus Services teams of 120 technicians regularly work hand-in-hand with the French armed forces, preparing Airbus-built aircraft for operations that have included deployments to Mali in West Africa, for medical assistance in the Pacific related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to ensure 24/7 deterrence for France and its territories.
France introduced the A330 MRTTs in 2018, with the goal of progressively replacing older assets with the objective of having a modern, multi-role fleet composed of a single aircraft type. Capable of “topping off” two combat aircraft simultaneously while airborne, the A330 MRTT carries up to 110 metric tonnes of fuel. When fitted with the “Morphée” patient resuscitation module in its cabin, the French A330 MRTTs offer a unique medical evacuation capacity that was first utilised in 2020 during the transfer of COVID-19 patients.
The A400Ms serve as the cornerstone of the French Air and Space Force’s transport fleet, bringing superior capabilities in terms of speed, range and payload – which enable all equipment operated by the country’s armed forces to be transported directly from metropolitan France to theatres of operation. In active service since 2013, the French fleet of A400Ms will reach 25 aircraft by 2025.