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A400M airlifter drops paratroopers for first time


The A400M aircraft dropping paratroopers. An Airbus Military photo

TOULOUSE, FRANCE (BNS): European heavy military transport aircraft A400M has successfully demonstrated one of its key roles by dropping paratroopers from on board during a test flight earlier this month.

Six freefall paratroopers made jumps from the aircraft 'Grizzly Three' in separate passes from 6,000ft at the Fonsorbes drop zone near Toulouse, France on November 4, Airbus Military said.

The six paratroopers included two each from the British armed forces, French armed forces, and the French Centre d'Essais en Vol.

Before dropping the paratroopers, the aircraft had first dropped water-filled balloons in an earlier flight.

Further trials are planned for 2011, Airbus Military, producer of the aircraft said.

"This successful jump is another important milestone in the procurement programme which will see the United Kingdom taking delivery of 22 of these modern and highly capable aircraft, which are due to be based at RAF Brize Norton, with delivery of the first aircraft due in 2014,” the UK Air Force said.

The estimated $28.6 billion A400M military transport aircraft project of European consortium EADS got into troubles when Airbus, earlier this year, indicated to shun it due to cost overruns and delivery delays.

However, the project was salvaged with all the seven partnering nations coming forward to provide further financial support to complete it.

The seven NATO countries have placed orders to buy a total of 180 A400M aircraft with Germany and France being the project’s biggest customers, with 60 and 50 orders respectively.

The four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft has been designed to transport all vital humanitarian and military equipments required for various operations.

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