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French Air Force A400M airlifter concludes aerial refuelling test campaign with Rafale.

| 2018

By Nathan Gain

The French Air Force A400M strategic airlifter successfully concluded an aerial refuelling test campaign with the Rafale fighter jet, the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA), stated on June 8, 2018.

French Air Force A400M airlifter successfully complete aerial refuelling test campaign with Rafale fighter A FAF A400M airlifter refuelling a Rafale B fighter jet
(Credit: DGA/DICOD/French Armed Forces Ministry)

Aerial Refuelling with the A400M is possible through two lateral points via a refueling pod attached to the aircraft – only for fighter aircraft - or by a fuselage-integrated refueling unit (HDU - Hose Drum Unit) - for transport aircraft and fighters. An upcoming version of specific gondola will help refuel the helicopters. After a flight test campaign conducted by the DGA with the support of the French Air Force, the A400M has just reached a new milestone by demonstrating its ability to refuel the Rafale with its pods.

During these tests, refueling of the Rafale with the A400M in all flight conditions (altitude, speed) including in so-called aircraft degraded modes (simulated failure of an engine and flight controls), has been evaluated. The tests were conducted day and night, including night vision binoculars, in several Rafale configurations (light aircraft, center-back and high drag).

The “DGA Essais en vol” center conducted, along with the CEAM (the main French aeronautical research and test centre), the achievement of these tests that will in soon allow the DGA to authorize the Rafale to be refueled by the A400M. The French  Air Force, for its part, examines the conditions for deploying this new capacity in an operational context, by setting up the means of its implementation (procedures, technical support, training, etc.). The A400M will then be able to offer a theater refueling capacity.

Further flight refueling campaigns are planned for 2019, such as the pairing of the Mirage 2000 with pods or other transport aircraft by the central HDU point.

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