Already cleared to refuel fighters and transport aircraft, the Airbus A400M airlifter has further expanded its capabilities as a tanker by successfully demonstrating air-to-air refuelling contacts with another A400M.
In two flights conducted from Seville, Spain the development aircraft performed more than 50 contacts in level flight and turns using the centreline hose and drum unit (HDU).
The A400M is the only tactical tanker on the market with this third refuelling point, in addition to its underwing pods, enabling refuelling of large receivers such as another A400M or C-130.
It has a basic fuel capacity of 63,500 litres, which can be increased with two extra cargo hold tanks carrying 7,200 litres each, and can refuel from the HDU at a rate of 2,000 litres (600 US gallons) per minute.
The technique would allow the A400M to carry a 20t payload more than 6,000nm (11,000km) non-stop from Paris to Kuala Lumpur.
The A400M in standard configuration has full provisions for air-to-air refuelling operations already installed and only requires installation of the optional air-to-air refuelling kit to become a tanker.