Airbus flew the sole example of the A400M airlifter for Luxembourg for the first time on April 13. The aircraft, with construction number MSN104, lifted off from the final assembly plant at Seville’s San Pablo airport for a five-hour functional check flight.
MSN104 is due to be delivered to Melsbroek airport in Brussels, Belgium, from where it will be operated in a binational unit alongside Belgium’s own A400M fleet, which will number seven aircraft. The Luxembourg aircraft, to be serialed CT-01 in service, will be the first for the unit and is due for delivery in June. Belgium’s first aircraft, MSN106, is in the final stages of completion and is due to follow shortly after.
To be delivered by 2024, the eight-aircraft fleet will be operated by the 15th Air Transport Wing of the Belgian Air Component, which currently flies nine Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules with No. 20 Squadron. The A400M is too large to fit into the current Hercules-sized hangar, and construction of a taller building with 13,620 square meters of floor space is due to commence at Melsbroek early next year.
Since June 2018 a Belgian Air Component A400M crew has been attached to the UK Royal Air Force’s No. 24 Squadron at Brize Norton, which has two full-motion simulators for the A400M and a full-scale cargo hold trainer with loadmaster station. Belgian crews will first undergo a basic three-month training course with the manufacturer in Seville, before receiving operational instruction in the UK.
Although small in size, Luxembourg lies at the heart of NATO and plays its part in the alliance’s military operations. NATO’s multinational Airborne Early Warning Force operates a fleet of Boeing E-3A Sentries that are registered in Luxembourg, and carry the Luxembourg Armed Forces crest, although it is based across the border at Geilenkirchen in Germany. The Grand Duchy itself operated three Piper PA-18 Super Cubs in support of the small army between 1952 and 1968, and today the police air wing operates an MD902 and two militarized Airbus H145M helicopters from Findel airport for defense and security tasks. The first of the H145Ms was delivered in November 2019.