Airbus has completed a new flight-test campaign for the A400M Roll-on/Roll-off firefighting prototype kit, showcasing its capabilities by dropping 20,000 litres of retardant and creating high concentration lines over 400 meters on the ground.
Over a two-week period in south-western and central Spain, the A400M performed six drops, three using red-coloured retardant and three using water. The campaign demonstrated enhanced efficiency, reducing discharge time by over 30% compared to the previous year, according to Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space.
The roll-on/roll-off kit is designed for easy installation without any modification to the aircraft, making it interchangeable with any A400M fleet aircraft. The retardant or water is stored in a cargo hold tank, and a mechanical lever opens a door to facilitate gravity-driven discharge through a pipe. The prototype can discharge 20,000 litres in a single operation, and the tanks can be refilled in less than 10 minutes using standard high-pressure pumps on the ground.
The A400M's capability to take off and land on short and unpaved runways, along with its versatility in various air bases and airfields, adds operational value to firefighting efforts. The campaign involved technical advisors from the 43rd Firefighting Squadron of the Spanish Air Force.
In July 2022, Airbus tested a removable firefighting demonstrator kit on the A400M, highlighting its additional capabilities, including high-dropping capacity, maneuverability, day and night operation, and the potential to convert any regular A400M in any fleet into a firefighting aircraft at short notice.