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Modular kit turns Airbus A400M transports into firefighting aircraft

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Airbus has flight tested the latest prototype of its A400M Roll-on/Roll-off modular kit that turns a standard Airbus A400M turboprop military transport aircraft into a firefighting bomber to drop water and retardants on conflagrations.

Using aircraft to bomb wildfires and forest fires with water and retardants is certainly spectacular and can be credited with saving many lives and billions of dollars in property over the years. First conceived of in 1929, the technique has evolved over the years and the development of a large number of modified and purpose-built fixed-wing and rotor aircraft with capacities ranging from 570 gal (2,200 L) to 19,600 gal (74,000 L).

Though these airframes perform an important service, they have their limitations. Some are amphibious, some only operate from land, some require long, tarmac runways, and some need special support gear. Another problem is that, being specialized aircraft, there are only so many available at any one time and when there aren’t any fires, they don’t have a job.

The new Airbus prototype addresses these difficulties by turning the firefighting apparatus into a self-contained kit that can be installed on an A400M transport by rolling it into the cargo bay, with the tail of the kit sticking out. The kit’s tank contains 4,400 gal (20,000 L) of retardant or water and a mechanical lever opens a door that empties the tank by gravity in a single discharge. The tank can be filled in under 10 minutes using standard high-pressure pumps.

Because the A400M is a military transport, it can operate from unpaved, short runways with limited facilities, which makes deployment for firefighting much more flexible. In addition, being a kit, it can be installed in as many aircraft as available, which can return to other duties after the fire is put out and the kit uninstalled.

In a series of six test drops conducted by Airbus with the help of the 43rd Firefighting Squadron of the Spanish Air Force in south-western and central Spain, three flights of the improved prototype used colored retardants and three used water.

“We have tested a new version of the kit, improving dropping efficiency and reducing discharge time by over 30% compared to last year, while combined with rapid deployment and easy installation on the A400M aircraft,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space. “We continue to pioneer new solutions and capabilities for our A400M fleet, in this case protecting populations and natural environments from fires.”

Source: Airbus




Airbus has flight tested the latest prototype of its A400M Roll-on/Roll-off modular kit that turns a standard Airbus A400M turboprop military transport aircraft into a firefighting bomber to drop water and retardants on conflagrations.

Using aircraft to bomb wildfires and forest fires with water and retardants is certainly spectacular and can be credited with saving many lives and billions of dollars in property over the years. First conceived of in 1929, the technique has evolved over the years and the development of a large number of modified and purpose-built fixed-wing and rotor aircraft with capacities ranging from 570 gal (2,200 L) to 19,600 gal (74,000 L).

Though these airframes perform an important service, they have their limitations. Some are amphibious, some only operate from land, some require long, tarmac runways, and some need special support gear. Another problem is that, being specialized aircraft, there are only so many available at any one time and when there aren’t any fires, they don’t have a job.

The new Airbus prototype addresses these difficulties by turning the firefighting apparatus into a self-contained kit that can be installed on an A400M transport by rolling it into the cargo bay, with the tail of the kit sticking out. The kit’s tank contains 4,400 gal (20,000 L) of retardant or water and a mechanical lever opens a door that empties the tank by gravity in a single discharge. The tank can be filled in under 10 minutes using standard high-pressure pumps.

Because the A400M is a military transport, it can operate from unpaved, short runways with limited facilities, which makes deployment for firefighting much more flexible. In addition, being a kit, it can be installed in as many aircraft as available, which can return to other duties after the fire is put out and the kit uninstalled.

In a series of six test drops conducted by Airbus with the help of the 43rd Firefighting Squadron of the Spanish Air Force in south-western and central Spain, three flights of the improved prototype used colored retardants and three used water.

“We have tested a new version of the kit, improving dropping efficiency and reducing discharge time by over 30% compared to last year, while combined with rapid deployment and easy installation on the A400M aircraft,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus Defence and Space. “We continue to pioneer new solutions and capabilities for our A400M fleet, in this case protecting populations and natural environments from fires.”

Source: Airbus

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