A Royal Air Force Brize Norton based Atlas transport aircraft has conducted trials in Romania to rapidly deploy NATO weapons capabilities, using a Romanian military HIMARS weapons system. The trials conducted by an Atlas A400M aircraft, crewed by 30 Squadron and LXX Squadron personnel, were to test the ability to load and transport the US weapons system currently in service with several NATO allies. The trials concluded with the weapons system being loaded, flown, unloaded to then fire a simulated missile strike, before reloading and returning to base. The HIMARS, standing for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, that was used in the test is operated by the 8th Tactical Operational Missile Brigade of the Romanian Army.
“The greatest challenge is the initial assessment of any unfamiliar vehicle. Gathering all the data required to clear it, what are its dimensions? Tyre pressures? Weight? Dangerous goods contained within? Then we can ascertain whether the vehicle physically fits, isn’t going to strike any part of the aircraft as it’s loaded, isn’t going to overload the floor capacity or aircraft compartment and can be restrained sufficiently for flight. Working with any allied forces, always presents subtle differences in the way they work. It can be something as simple as the marshalling signals they use,” Flight Sergeant Ellery Air Portability Section of the Trials Management Office, Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit said.
The trial was carried out at Mihail Kog?lniceanu Airbase, on the Black Sea coast. Also taking part as advisors were personnel from the United States Special Operations Command Europe. Moving around large vehicles is routine business for the A400M and its crew. In this case, however, it was highly valuable to be part of the initial assessment and to be involved in each step of the clearance process in conjunction with the JADTEU team. The successful trial once again demonstrated that the RAF Air Mobility Force has the capability to operate at range with NATO allies, to rapidly move unfamiliar equipment from other nations if called upon to do so. The RAF Air Movements Squadron falls under 1 Air Mobility Wing of the Support Force.
The Airbus A400M Atlas is a European four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. It was designed by Airbus Military (now Airbus Defence and Space) as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities to replace older transport aircraft, such as the Transall C-160 and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The original partner nations were France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Belgium, and Luxembourg. These nations decided to charge the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) with the management of the acquisition of the A400M. The A400M is large enough to carry six Land Rovers and trailers, or two light armored vehicles, or a dump truck and excavator, or a Patriot missile system, or a Puma or Cougar helicopter, or a truck and 25-ton trailer.