PARIS ― France has completed a range of in-flight tests showing that the Rafale fighter jet could be refueled from underwing fuel pods on the A400M military transport plane, the Armed Forces Ministry said.
“After a campaign of flight tests conducted by the Direction Générale de l’Armement with the support from the Air Force, the A400M has just passed a significant milestone in demonstrating its capability to refuel the Rafale from underwing fuel pods,” the ministry said July 9 on its website..
The tests allowed the Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office to authorize the A400M for refueling the Rafale, while the Air Force is preparing the means to enter the new capability into service.
Meanwhile, the A330M will fly in the July 14 Bastille Day parade, marking the first time the multirole tanker transport twin jet will take part in the military showcase. Last year, U.S. Air Force F-16s flew down the Champs Elysées, with U.S. President Donald Trump admiring the parade with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron.
The A400M MRTT will fly in French Air Force colors, with the first official delivery due after the summer.
In the flight-test campaign, the Rafales took fuel from the two underwing pods as well as from the fuselage from the hose drum unit, which is used to refuel transport and fighter aircraft, the ministry said. The next major test will be refueling of helicopters.
The tests included refueling the Rafale at various altitudes and speed, as well as simulated failure of one of the fighter’s engines and flight controls, the ministry said. Tests were conducted in day and night, including using night vision goggles, with the fighter flying in different conditions.
The Air Force is preparing flight procedure, technical support and training, the ministry said. “The A400M will then offer the capability of in-flight refueling in the theater,” it added.
Further test campaigns are due to be held later this year, including the A400M refueling the Mirage 2000 fighter from the pods and other transport aircraft from the hose drum unit, the ministry said.