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THE RAF has used the Royal International Air Tattoo to christen its next generation transport aircraft. The Airbus A400M - the first of which will be delivered in 2014 - will be officially known as the Atlas. The aircraft is set to become the backbone of the air transport fleet alongside the Airbus A330 tanker, which was christened Voyager at last year's Air Tattoo, and the Boeing C-17 Globemaster.

Despite the rain and gusting winds, air chiefs and guests from around the world gathered to hear more about the Atlas, before being given a peek inside the giant airlifter. Each one is able to carry twice as much as the C-130 Hercules, carrying 32 tonnes of cargo over a range of 4,500 km. It can move up to 116 paratroopers, large armoured vehicles such as Mastiffs as well as vast amounts of humanitarian and disaster relief.

The aircraft's ability to land on semi-permanent runways and rough ground also mean Atlas will be able to fly its cargo into the centre of operations, supplying tactical forward bases or evacuating casualities or refugees.

Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff said: "Atlas will be a uniquely capable aircraft and will provide both tactical and strategic airlift capabilities for use in peace, crisis and war. The name Atlas reflects the potential of this mighty aircraft to provide help and support to our Armed Forces and others in need across the globe.

"The programme is a good example of how European partners can work together to deliver world-class military capability."

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton said: "Atlas is going to be a major capability for Defence and the Royal Air Force is looking forward to Atlas joining our world-class fleet of air mobility aircraft. Atlas will offer a step change in the Royal Air Force's capability and with its significant payload it will be able to transport every type of UK Protected Mobility Vehicles directly to where they are needed as well as supporting forces on the ground through significant tactical air drop."

Despite the wet weather, Sir Stephen praised the Air Tattoo for its ability consistently to attract air arms from around the world. He said: "Every year, the Air Tattoo puts on a spectacular show for the public, the media, and the many others who attend each year. In a global sense it serves to display the capabilities of air power, and it's a great show that continues to grow every year."

July 6, 2012

“It was an epic spectacle, as magical as anything you've ever seen in the West End, and as loud as anything you've ever heard at Knebworth.”

Jeremy Clarkson, Television Presenter

“All the thrills, excitement and noise of a Grand Prix, but in the air!”

Jenson Button, Formula 1 Racing Driver

“This is the best airshow!”

Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut

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