Madrid, Spain, 21 December 2017 — An Airbus A400M has successfully refuelled six Spanish Air Force Boeing (Northrop) F-18 Hornet fighters in a single mission as part of an air-to-air refuelling (AAR) human factors certification flight. The 13 December mission, using one of the two Spanish A400M test aircraft, featured a complex series of AAR scenarios such as changes of area, receivers with unknown priorities, and unexpected increases in numbers of receivers.
Through multiple contacts the six aircraft simulated a fleet of eight. The F-18s included the first Spanish operational fighters to be refuelled by the A400M and belonged to the Spanish Air Force Test Centre (CLAEX) and the Ala de Caza 12 based at Torrejón.
A total of 11.4 tonnes of fuel was dispensed using both the underwing pods and the centre hose refuelling unit. Certification authorities on board confirmed good results and the flight validated the A400M two-crew cockpit concept for tanker missions. The French Air Force is so far one of the only users of the A400M to be determined to use the big cargo aircraft alternatively as a tactical tanker, in order to leverage the use of its C-135R/KC-135R fleet now over 50 years of age, and pending the arrival in the near future of the A330 MRTT / KC-30 “Phénix” due to become during this next decade the main strategical tanker aircraft of the French Air Force.//