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Air-to-Air Refuelling

A400M supplies helicopters


Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) is an essential capability that increases the range, endurance, payload and flexibility of all capable receiver aircraft, and is especially important when forward basing is limited or unavailable.
If required in a military operation, the A400M can be adapted easily in order to become a tanker. With hard points, fuel lines and electrical connections already built into the wings, it takes under two hours to convert the A400M from an airlifter into a two-point tanker aircraft.
Air-to-Air Refuelling can be done either through two wing mounted hose and drogue under-wing refueling pods or through a centre-line fuselage refuelling unit (FRU).
The two hose and drogue under-wing refuelling pods can provide a fuel flow of up to 1,500 litres per minute to the receiving aircraft. Refuelling can also be done through a centre-line hose and drum unit (HDU), which provides a higher fuel flow of about 2,250 litres per minute. Three video cameras can also be installed, - to monitor the refuelling from the wing pods and the centre-line unit.


Airbus and Transall pictured by photo site de Cazaux

The A400M is capable of both the dispensing and receiving of fuel through the provision of probe and drogue role equipment mounted above the cockpit.
Being refuelled in flight enables the A400M to reach a destination sooner, avoiding fuel stops or coping with over-flight limitations, especially in case of max payload / max zero fuel weight missions. Although the A400M is a long-range aircraft, there are some occasions, where its receiver ability is limited. For instance the gross weight limited take-off without a suitable refuelling airport in range:
Due to its refuelling speed range, the A400M will be a good choice as tanker aircraft for slow movers, helicopters or to sustain fighters on station. It as well offers a swing role capability, being capable to combine a tanker role with another TAT role (airdrop, airlift…) during the same mission. For AAR in support of ferry flights for fighter aircraft, the A400M is one choice in-between different other available strategic tanker options, because the EATC can work with different AAR-versions in its assigned fleet.


Airbus A400M supplies Eurofighters


The EATC Participating Nations planned to pursue 27 AAR kits in total. The aircraft will be equipped this way starting with SOC 2.5. 

Before this all A400M aircraft will be able to take up fuel as receiver (right over the cockpit is the inlet). This makes the aircraft in theory ready to operate world wide... 


Pictures taken by French Air Force and Airbus

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