The A400M airlifter has completed a flight test campaign demonstrating its ability to refuel the Rafale fighter using its underwing nacelles.
Following a flight test campaign conducted by the French defence procurement agency (DGA) with the support of the French Air Force, the A400M military transport has successfully demonstrated its ability to refuel the Rafale fighter in flight using its underwing nacelles.
During these tests, the Rafale was refuelled by the A400M throughout its flight envelope (at various altitudes and speeds) including in so-called degraded aircraft modes involving simulated failure of an engine and flight controls.
The tests were conducted by day and night, including with night vision goggles, in several Rafale configurations (light aircraft, rear-heavy attitude with high drag generation).
The Air Force is working on procedures, technical support, training, etc. to allow this new capability to be introduced into service in an operational context. The A400M will then be able to offer a theatre refuelling capability.
Further flight refuelling campaigns are planned for 2019, including refuelling of Mirage 2000s via the nacelles, and of other transport aircraft through the centreline Hose Drum Unit (HDU) refuelling point.
Refuelling is currently possible through two lateral points via an underwing refuelling pod (for fighters) or by the fuselage-mounted HDU (for transport aircraft and fighters). A specific version of the underwing nacelle will allow refuelling of helicopters.