Recent years have seen record-breaking wildfire seasons across the world, from Australia to North and South America. With global temperatures on the rise, wildfires are predicted to worsen in the coming years and decades. Therefore, the need to reduce wildfire risk is more critical than ever.
In this effort, Airbus announced that it has successfully tested a removable firefighting demonstrator kit on the A400M new generation airlifter during a flight test campaign in Spain.
The development of this prototype and the tests have been carried out in close collaboration with the 43rd Group of the Spanish Air Force, as well as European authorities in Firefighting operations and the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO).
The Airbus A400M is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft, which can also be equipped to carry out cargo transport, troop transport, aerial refueling, or medical evacuation with the appropriate kits. The cargo box is 58 ft (17.71 meters) long, 13.12 ft (4 meters) wide, and 12.6 ft (3.85 meters) high. The maximum payload of 37 metric tons (41 short tons) can be carried over 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km).
The recent test campaign took place in daylight conditions with a minimum operating height of 150 ft (45.7 meters) and flight speeds as low as 125 knots (143 mph). The test involved dropping up to 20 tonnes of water from the current tank in less than 10 seconds. The company says the campaign’s main objective is to validate the drop water quantity and time and the ability of the A400M to carry out this new role with the kit.
The A400M is equipped with a roll-on/roll-off (RORO) kit that requires no aircraft modification and is therefore interchangeable with any aircraft in the A400M fleet. The water is stored in a fixed tank in the cargo hold and retained by two independent doors that are connected to flood pipes. So when the discharge is triggered, the water is expelled through two sections at the end of the ramp. Thanks to its low-level flight capability and maneuverability at low speeds, the A400M can accurately drop payloads of water at very low heights, down to 150ft.
“The development of this firefighting kit is an intrinsic part of our journey towards helping to create a more sustainable and safer world, not only by our actions but also through our products. We strongly believe the A400M can play a vital role in the fight against the ever-increasing threat posed by wildfires and support the restoration of social and environmental systems,” said Mike Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space.
In the future, in addition to the development of the production version of this kit, Airbus will analyze this operation also in nighttime conditions, reinforcing the efficiency and effectiveness of the mission.