The test campaign took place in daylight conditions with a minimum operating height of 150ft, flight speeds as low as 125 knots and drops involving up to 20 tonnes of water from the current tank in less than ten seconds. Airbus’s main objective was to validate the drop water quantity and time as well as the A400M’s ability to carry out the new role with the kit.
Development of this prototype and the tests were carried out in collaboration with the 43rd Group of the Spanish Air Force, as well as European authorities in firefighting operations and the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO).
“The development of this firefighting kit is an intrinsic part of our journey towards helping to create a more sustainable and safer world, not only by our actions but also through our products,” said Mike Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space.
“We strongly believe the A400M can play a vital role in the fight against the ever increasing threat posed by wildfires and support the restoration of social and environmental systems.”
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The Airbus firefighting solution created for the A400M is a roll-on/roll-off (RORO) kit that requires no modification to the aircraft, interchangeable to any aircraft in the A400M fleet. Water is stored in a fixed tank in the cargo hold, and retained by two independent doors. These doors are connected to two flood pipes, so when the discharge is triggered, the water is expelled through two sections at the end of the ramp.
Airbus said the introduction of the RORO solution allows a rapid reaction to unforeseen fires and reconfiguration of the aircraft to any of its other roles.
Due to its low level flight capability and manoeuvrability at low speeds, the A400M can accurately drop payloads of water at very low heights, down to 150ft. In the future, in addition to the development of the production version of this kit, Airbus plans to analyse the operation in night time conditions.