The UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF) A400M Atlas aircraft and crew from RAF Brize Norton have recently participated in Exercise Ouranos in France, in which they trained to land on unprepared and natural surfaces, further demonstrating the capabilities offered by the Atlas fleet.
Natural Surface Operations are the capability for an aircraft to land on unprepared or natural surfaces other than that of regular asphalt or tarmac. It was a complex operation involving members of LXX and 30 Squadron from RAF Brize Norton, the frontline flying squadrons for the Atlas, with qualified instructors in Natural Surface Operations from XXIV Squadron onboard.
This multinational exercise saw RAF crews working alongside their French counterparts from the Armée de l’Air, learning new skills and ways of working together, continually improving interoperability with partner nations. It follows on from Armée de l’Air Atlas aircraft conducting reciprocal training on Pembrey Sands in Wales.
Natural Surface Operations are a key capability of the Air Mobility fleet, vastly extending the variety of locations the aircraft can operate in without being restricted to prepared runways. To support the exercise, RAF’s Tactical Air Traffic Control members prepared a Temporary Landing Zone on the unprepared strip and created controlled airspace.
The 45-meter long A400M Atlas aircraft with a wingspan of 42.4-meter is a true workhorse, meant to be able to deliver the maximum payload of 37 tons across a distance of over 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km). The military transport aircraft can carry various payload combinations of vehicles, pallets, and personnel, thanks to its flexible configuration.