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The Airbus A400M Atlas is a four engine transport aircraft that has both tactical and strategic capabilities. Larger than a C-130 Hercules and smaller than the C-17, the A400M was originally developed to replace the Hercules and C-160 in European service. In addition to the transport role, the Atlas can be used as an aerial refuelling aircraft or for medical evacuation. The type has achieved limited export success, in addition to the original seven nations (Germany, France, Spain, UK, Turkey, Belgium, and Luxembourg) to order the Atlas, the aircraft has since been ordered by Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Indonesia.
The RAF originally ordered 25 A400M, to be known as the Atlas C.1 in service however this order was eventually reduced to 22 aircraft. As of the end of 2022, 21 of these aircraft had been delivered and are operated from RAF Brize Norton by number 24, 30, 70 and 206 Squadrons. With the retirement of the C-130J Hercules from RAF service, the Atlas will now be taking on the role of the UK's sole tactical transporter whilst also providing its strategic airlift capabilities supplementing those of the C-17. Unlike other nations, the RAF Atlas fleet are not used for aerial refuelling of other aircraft. It was widely anticipated that an additional order for further Atlas would be made shortly however in late 2022 the UK Government stated that this would not be affordable.
A pair of RAF Atlas' will be appearing at this years Air Tattoo. One will be appearing in our static display as part of the RAF experience and the second will be exclusively appearing in our flying display on the Friday only. The Atlas will be appearing in our flying display as part of our SKYTANKER theme and will be performing a flypast simulating it taking on fuel mid-air from an RAF Voyager. Photo Credit: Duncan MacKellar