PARIS – The French A400M military transport aircraft has recently reached a milestone towards reaching full paratrooper deployment capability in 2021 when it dropped 50 paratroopers from a side door in a single stick.

The objective is to deliver 58 paratroopers from one side door in the upcoming weeks and then start working on dispatching paratroopers from both sides next year. The military’s requirement is for 116 paratroopers able to jump out of the aircraft in one dispatch.

A spokesman for Airbus Defence and Space told Defense News that the exercise took place a couple of weeks ago. The French Army confirmed that it was their paratroopers who were dropped at the Ger Azet drop zone near the Pyrenees in southern France.

The requirement for 116 paratroopers being dropped simultaneously is proving quite difficult to achieve given the physical constraints of military parachuting. Unlike a civilian who opens the chute at their convenience, a military paratrooper’s chute is opened automatically by a static line inside the aircraft. As the parachutist steps out of the aircraft, the static line pulls taught, removing the so-called D-bag (deployment bag) from around the parachute, allowing the latter to open very quickly.

The D-bag remains attached to the static line. And the more paratroopers jump out, the more D-bags accumulate on the static line. This is the issue that Airbus has been working on, making slight modifications to the outside of the side doors to solve the problem of flapping bags.