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Royal Air Force’s Almighty Atlas Proves That It Can Land Anywhere

A recent multinational exercise gave the UK Royal Air Force’s Atlas A400M the opportunity to demonstrate that it’s able to not only reach the farthest places but also to land smoothly even when there’s no runway available.
RAF's Atlas A400M practiced landing on natural surfaces during an exercise in France 6 photos
RAF's Atlas A400M in FranceRAF's Atlas A400M in FranceRAF's Atlas A400M in FranceRAF's Atlas A400M in FranceRAF's Atlas A400M in France
RAF A400M showed off its rugged profile and unmatched capabilities during Exercise Ouranos at Amberieu, France. The official term for what went down is “Natural Surface Operations Training.” In other words, the crew from RAF’s Brize Norton had to safely land Atlas in the absence of regular asphalt or tarmac.

It was a complex operation involving members of the LXX and 30 Squadron from Brize Norton, plus qualified instructors for this specific type of landing from the XXIV Squadron. Prior to this, an Atlas aircraft of the French Air Force had taken part in similar reciprocal training in Wales.

To support the exercise, RAF’s Tactical Air Traffic Control unit prepared a Temporary Landing Zone and created a controlled airspace. The goal of this type of training is to prepare the crew for possible scenarios in which prepared runways won’t be available. This means that the Atlas can widen its area of operation, capable of reaching places where it needs to land on natural surfaces.

The 147-foot-long (45 meters) Atlas is a true workhorse, meant to be able to deliver more than 40 tons of payload across distances that can exceed 2,000 nautical miles (2,300 miles/3,700 km). It’s specifically designed to reach isolated military airfields, many of which have no runways, just unprepared strips. Thanks to its flexible configuration, this rugged aircraft can carry various payload combinations of vehicles, pallets, and personnel.

Earlier this year, RAF’s A400M demonstrated a successful resupply mission, completing a nine-hour round trip as part of the Dirt Track exercise in Estonia. Powerful and far-reaching, the Atlas A400M confirmed its prowess once again.

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