PARIS — France has restricted flights following the deadly crash of the Airbus A400M in Spain, but operational needs in Africa and Iraq make the French Air Force the sole service flying the military transport plane.
On May 10, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the A400M would fly for “essential operations” only, pending the outcome of the Spanish inquiry into the loss the of the MSN 023 unit. Four Airbus staff were killed and two were severely injured in the crash of the aircraft, which was built for Turkey.
France has six A400Ms, which have accumulated 1,700 flying hours, Le Drian said. “This is a very high quality aircraft,” he added.
Much of the flying will have been for evaluation and test by the Air Force, needed to reach an initial operating capability (IOC), said an Air Force officer who declined to be identified. IOC requires a full spectrum of mission capability, and the service needs to train crews to fly a full squadron of 10 to 12 transports.
French special forces are keen to receive the fully tested and equipped aircraft. One of the key training aspects is for pilots to fly the transport and tanker as a fighter aircraft, including fast and low. The Air Force is also moving to train fighter pilots to fly transport aircraft.
An important French requirement is installing a radar warning receiver among the defensive aids suite offered, the officer said.
The six A400Ms are in the Touraine squadron at the Orleans air base, south of the capital. The first aircraft was delivered in 2013.