Airbus A400M can drop 20 tonnes of water in seconds with a new removable kit

The kit can drop 20 tonnes of water in less than 10 seconds.
Ameya Paleja
The firefighting demonstration on A400M aircraftAirbus

The Defense and Space wing of the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has successfully tested a removable firefighting demonstrator kit for its A400M aircraft, a company press release said. 

With the temperatures soaring around the world, the risk of wildfires has increased, as was recently witnessed in California recently, or in Australia a couple of years ago. Although Fire Departments often exercise the aerial option in their attempts to douse these fires, a solution on an aircraft such as the A400M can go a long way in an emergency. 

The A400M aircraft

Even though its maiden flight was conducted only in 2009, the Airbus A400M military transport aircraft has found many admirers with its ability to carry more cargo than a C-130 Hercules as well as its versatility in working with rough landing strips. 

Designed for military transport, this four turboprop engine aircraft can also be equipped to carry out aerial refueling or medical evacuation with the appropriate kits. The cargo box of the aircraft is about 58 feet (17.71 m) long and 13 feet (4 m) wide. With a payload capacity of 40 tons (37 tonnes), and the ability to fly at low heights, the aircraft makes for a good candidate for fighting wildfires. 

How does the firefighting kit work? 

The firefighting kit designed by Airbus is a rolled-on-rolled-off (RORO) solution that be used on any aircraft of the A400M fleet without any modifications. Water is stored in a fixed tank in the cargo hold of the aircraft and retained by two independent doors that are connected to flood pipes, the press release said. 

When the discharge is triggered, the water is expelled through two sections at the end of the ramp of the aircraft. Recently, Airbus tested the demonstrator kit with the 43rd Group of the Spanish Air Force as well as authorities involved in the firefighting operations and the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO) in Spain. 

The objective of the test was to validate the time and quantity of the water drop as well as the A400M's capability to work with this kit. Flying at an altitude of 150 feet (45.7 m) and a flight speed of 125 knots (143 mph, 230 kph), the kit was able to drop 22 tons (20 tonnes) of water in less than 10 seconds, the press release said. 

"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," said Mike Schellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. "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."

While the recent test was conducted in daylight, Airbus plans to analyze the operation in nighttime conditions as well and develop the production version of the kit in the future. 

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